Royals' rotation points north on Bay Area swing

Singer's solid outing in finale isn't enough in KC's bid for a sweep against Oakland

June 20th, 2022

OAKLAND -- Determined not to let the inning get away from him as it has in the past, Royals starter Brady Singer changed nothing about his approach against the top of the A’s lineup with runners on second and third and one out in the fifth.

Singer trusted the pitches, himself and the defense behind him to pitch out of the jam without a run scored, keeping the Royals within a run. Second baseman Whit Merrifield made an impressive throw home on a contact play for the second out, and Singer got a popup to end the threat.

“Making the right pitches in the right location at the right time,” Singer said. “That’s the goal there, get the ball on the ground. I saw that [the defense] were in, so I knew that maybe with a few less pitches, maybe get a ground ball and let the defense work. They’ve been great all year. Definitely something I was trying to do.”

Singer didn’t have the same fate in the sixth inning, when he put the first two batters on and threw a wild pitch before exiting with one out. A’s catcher Sean Murphy hit a crushing three-run homer against reliever Jose Cuas, handing the Royals a 4-0 loss at the Oakland Coliseum, with Singer charged with three runs in 5 1/3 innings.

With two previous wins in the set against Oakland, it’s the first time that Kansas City won a series since May 13-15 at Colorado. The Royals still have not swept a team this season.

But keeping a win streak alive is hard to do without scoring runs. The Royals mustered just three hits in Sunday’s finale, two from MJ Melendez. With five walks, a hit batsman and Andrew Benintendi reaching on an error, Kansas City stranded 11 and went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

The Royals’ first hit of the game against A’s lefty Sean Koenig -- who was making his third career start -- didn’t come until Melendez’s double to lead off the fifth.

After Singer’s escape in the fifth inning, the Royals loaded the bases with one out in the top of the sixth. But Melendez flied out to left, and Michael A. Taylor struck out swinging.

“That’s a big shutdown,” manager Mike Matheny said. “… It’s frustrating, but you talk about having a young pitcher who we haven’t seen before, he just takes a little while to get a read on.”

Singer didn’t have a chance to escape another jam when Matheny went to Cuas with one out in the sixth, hoping to keep the deficit at one run. Singer was only at 87 pitches, but he had hit Ramón Laureano and threw a wild pitch prior to the pitching change.

“I felt good,” Singer said. “I just made a dumb mistake to Laureano, I was trying to go in, but it took off on me and ran away. That was the key part of that outing, hitting him there, kind of put me in a jam.”

“Whenever you have a stress inning like [the fifth], you know that might have some carryover,” Matheny added. “And then single, hit batsman, wild pitch. Things are starting to head in a bad direction. So we got to take our shot. Cuas has been really good.”

The Royals were hoping for a sweep, but they exited the weeklong Bay Area stay with their pitching still on a roll. Through six games of this nine-game West Coast trip, Kansas City starters posted a 3.13 ERA (11 earned runs in 31 2/3 innings). It’s a small sample, but something the team needed to see, especially since the rotation still ranks near the bottom of the Majors in ERA (5.25).

“We’re seeing more wins,” Singer said. “Putting together good outings, it’s going to help us tremendously. We’ve got a competition among all of us, and it’s helping us out. It’s a lot of fun, and we’re enjoying the process of putting together those good starts.”

The bullpen -- its struggles equally as bad with a 4.61 ERA this season -- has posted a 2.33 ERA (five earned runs in 19 1/3 innings) during this road trip. And much of that success comes from the starters going deeper into games.

“Every time we walk out there, when we have faith in our starting pitching, we believe we can play with anybody,” Matheny said. “These guys are good. They’re showing it. They’re continuing to work through some bumps and still be good, even when they don’t have their very best stuff. Brady had stuff good enough to win today. It was unfortunate we couldn’t capitalize offensively.”