Finding his stride, Witt launches longest HR of his career

Unable to snap losing streak, Royals still searching for answers after pitching falters

June 4th, 2022

KANSAS CITY -- Every time Bobby Witt Jr. comes to the plate at Kauffman Stadium, fans get to the edge of their seats waiting to see what the young phenom will do next.

On Friday night, they got to see him blast the longest home run of his career a Statcast-projected 443 feet into the left-field fountains in a 10-3 loss to the Astros.

But that was the lone bright spot for the Royals, who have dropped five straight games and haven’t scored more than three runs in a game during that stretch.

Witt provided a bit of a spark with the homer in the sixth inning. The Royals offense had managed just one hit going into the inning, but after a single by Whit Merrifield and a double by Andrew Benintendi, Witt jumped on the first pitch he saw to send it over the left-field fence.

“I just wanted to take a nice, smooth swing on it, and I guess I did and it felt pretty good,” Witt said. “It’s just trying to see the ball out of the hand and let the rest happen. Really just comes down to being on time.”

It was a 93.2 mph fastball from Astros starter José Urquidy that Witt hit at an exit velocity of 109.8 mph. That’s his second-hardest-hit homer behind his long ball off Twins reliever Joe Smith that was hit at 111.2 mph on May 27.

“It wasn’t like he was falling down trying to get extra carry,” manager Mike Matheny said. “The ball carries off his bat, and he’s one of the guys you can see that extra carry on the four-seam [fastball]. … He made the adjustments and when he finds the barrel, it’s just different how the ball carries for him.”

Things seem to be starting to click for Witt. In his last 10 games, he has three homers and 11 RBIs. The rookie now leads the team with seven home runs this season.

“I don’t feel much different,” Witt said, comparing Opening Day to now. “It’s not as cold out so that’s nice, but I just feel comfortable with all my teammates and learning more and more about the game, and I think that comes with failure.”

Pitching not clicking as skid continues
Kansas City was hoping an off-day on Thursday and returning to its friendly confines would be the reset it needed after a 2-7 road trip.

Instead, it was the Royals' largest margin of defeat in nearly a month since they lost to the Cardinals, 10-0, on May 4.

Brady Singer tied a career high by allowing seven earned runs, giving up three two-run homers over five innings. 

“I thought my command was good, and I attacked the zone,” Singer said. “I think I just made some bad pitches at some bad times, and they did some damage to them.”

Yordan Alvarez and Martín Maldonado both homered off Singer’s sinker, a pitch he threw almost 63 percent of the time. 

“The sinker just felt really good today,” Singer said. “I felt like I had good command on it, but it probably bit me in the end and could’ve done something different.”

Despite the seven runs given up by Singer, Matheny thought his stuff was really good. 

“I know that number line doesn’t look like it, but [Singer] had everything he needed,” Matheny explained. “He had good life and made a middle mistake to [Aledmys] Díaz early, but the other two home runs ended up being pretty good pitches. Those homers are hard to overcome, but his stuff was right today. It’s just a shame.”

He had been pitching stellar in his previous three starts, going 2-0 and allowing just three runs in 19 2/3 innings while fanning 20. 

The 25-year-old struggled keeping the ball in the park, which he hadn’t had much trouble with this season. Singer had given up one homer in 17 innings at Kauffman Stadium this season, but gave up three on Friday night.

Reliever Ronald Bolaños surrendered three runs in one-third of an inning, allowing three hits and two walks in the process.   

The Royals are looking for something to turn their season around. They are off to their third-worst start in club history and have now lost 12 of their last 14 games. 

“We are just going to keep pushing and working hard,” Singer said. “We are all busting our butts as much as we can, but just keep going and tides are going to turn.”