Witt approaching rare club in Royals history

Rookie phenom mashes 19th HR in otherwise uneven performance vs. White Sox

September 1st, 2022

CHICAGO -- With one swing in the top of the fourth inning Wednesday night, ensured White Sox starter Lance Lynn’s perfect game was over.

The Royals’ rookie phenom crushed a no-doubt homer 441 feet into the left-center field seats for his 19th long ball of the year, tying Salvador Perez -- who was scratched Wednesday with back tightness -- once again for the team lead.

The home run put Witt one shy of a 20-20 season, a feat accomplished by only four other Royals in franchise history. It sent a small jolt through the Royals’ offense against Lynn in their eventual 4-2 loss.

"I feel like every time I’m next to Salvy in the locker room," Witt said, gesturing to Perez’s locker in the visiting clubhouse at Guaranteed Rate Field, "he always hits a homer. Hopefully we kind of keep going back and forth. It’s a fun little race."

Kansas City felt a win Wednesday was in reach, but three moments led to the loss that set up a rubber match on Thursday afternoon (the MLB Game of the Week Live on YouTube).

1) Missed chances offensively

Witt’s swing broke something open in the Royals’ offense, which jumped on Lynn quickly for two consecutive hits from Nick Pratto and Michael A. Taylor. After Michael Massey was hit by a pitch, the Royals had the bases loaded with one out.

Momentum was squashed when Hunter Dozier reached for a 3-1 cutter down in the zone, rolling it over to second base for a frame-ending double play.

"We had nothing,” manager Mike Matheny said. "We had an opportunity there, and the double play kept us from having a crooked number. Unfortunately, this is what their guy does. He’s been good against us a couple times now."

Lynn rolled along for seven innings with eight strikeouts, while the Royals managed just one hit until the ninth, when Taylor tripled and Massey brought him home with a single.

The Royals had the game-tying run at the plate in Dozier again with two outs, but he struck out for his third time Wednesday night to seal the defeat.

2) Game-tying blast mars Bubic’s quality start

Dozier’s double-play ball almost immediately came back to haunt the Royals when starter yielded a game-tying solo home run to AJ Pollock in the bottom of the fifth inning.

"First-pitch fastball, we got it where we wanted to, up and in, and it tied him up a little bit," Bubic said. "And then the second one, ideally you want to throw it in a pretty similar spot. It was down, but kind of middle-down. Just not one of my better fastballs."

An inning later, Bubic left a fastball over the plate to Elvis Andrus, who crushed it 430 feet for the go-ahead run. That left Bubic in line for the loss Wednesday, and even though he has a 2.76 ERA against the White Sox in eight career appearances (seven starts), the left-hander remains winless against the club.

Despite battling command, Bubic turned in a quality start Wednesday with two runs in six innings, four walks and one strikeout. His defense helped him in every inning, including the first, when the White Sox loaded the bases with one out and didn’t score.

"He kept us in the game, gave us a chance, which is all we can ask of him," Matheny said. "Especially when he’s got stress right from the top."

3) Seventh-inning woes

Trailing by a run in the seventh, lefty Amir Garrett allowed three consecutive batters with a walk and two singles, including a bunt down the third-base line that stayed fair.

"Everything that goes down that dirt path will come back in fair territory," Witt said. "But that one right off the bat, looked like it was going foul. I don’t know if it hit something, but I tried to make a play on it."

Garrett was lifted for Collin Snider, who let two inherited runners score -- runs that would haunt the Royals again when they scored in the ninth. Snider got the ground ball he was looking for against Andrus, but Massey misplayed it, not being able to turn a double play with shortstop Nicky Lopez too far from the bag. Massey held onto it too long for there to be a play at home.

"There’s a play we do where we can read whether or not we just take the double play if we have it," Matheny said. "I think he lost sight of how far Nicky was. He thought twice, and it was too late by the time he tried to react to go home. That would have been a nice out to have."