Singer's career night backed by Witt, late surge

July 24th, 2022

KANSAS CITY --  didn’t have to see much of 's slider to know that it would cause Rays hitters fits Saturday night.

By the time the Royals' shortstop was running off the field after the top of the first inning, he was mentioning his observation to Whit Merrifield.

“He’s on tonight,” Witt said. “It’s going to be special.”

Witt’s prediction was right. Singer spun six-plus stellar innings, allowing two runs (one earned) with a career-high 12 strikeouts in the Royals’ 6-3 win over the Rays at Kauffman Stadium. Singer didn’t factor into the decision despite taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning, but his performance didn’t go to waste. 

Michael A. Taylor hammered a tie-breaking solo homer in the eighth and Witt followed three batters later with a two-run tank of his own, his team-leading 14th of the year.

“One of the best we’ve ever seen from Brady,” manager Mike Matheny said. “Everything was working.”

Singer is the first Royal to tally at least 12 strikeouts in a single game since Mike Montgomery struck out 12 in seven innings on Aug. 10, 2019. Of the 38 swings the Rays took against Singer Saturday, they whiffed on 17 of them -- good for 45 percent.

“You could tell from the beginning, it was pretty electric stuff, a lot of late movement,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “And then he sped us up enough and then was able to throw two-strike offspeed pitches that we were swinging over top of."

Singer might have looked electric from the start, but he didn’t feel electric. The right-hander didn’t have a good feel for his fastball through the first three innings and was just trying to limit the damage, walking two and throwing a wild pitch. His slider kept the Rays buckling, enough to rack up six strikeouts in his first three innings.

Once he was able to find his fastball, he got that much better. Singer's 12th and final strikeout of the night was on a knee-buckling slider to Ji-Man Choi, coming after he set him up with a sinker that also started at Choi’s knee but 14 inches on the corner.

Part of the solution to establishing Singer’s fastball glove-side was actually throwing more changeups to get a feel for the hand slot he needed to be in.

“With the fastball, you saw some of the yanked heaters tonight,” Singer said. “Having that changeup gets me back in the hand slot I need to be in. It helps a lot.”

That’s a significant mindset change from last year, when he wasn’t throwing many -- if any -- changeups. That’s changed in 2022, with more comfortability with his third pitch and more of an awareness to throw it, especially against lefty-heavy lineups like the Rays' on Saturday.

“I saw the lineup early, I was like, ‘Well, all right,’” Singer said. “But it was a good learning experience. Battling through it, I knew I had to throw the changeup at that point. That was something I was happy with.”

“We were always hoping he would find confidence in that third pitch, but he’s using it actually to make the others better, which is perfect,” Matheny added. “And he’s gaining confidence the more he practices it. … Attacking, trusting guys to make plays behind. But he was getting a lot of outs himself with the swing and miss.”

Since he returned to the rotation in mid-May, Singer has a 3.63 ERA as a starter. A strong second half from the 25-year-old, one of the keys to the Royals’ future, would allow the team to take at least one step forward with its young rotation in 2022.

So would keeping Witt as productive as he’s been in his rookie season. The 22-year-old has been nothing short of a star this year; he became the first Royal to reach 50 RBIs this season by tallying three on Saturday, and also became the fourth rookie in club history to record a double, home run and stolen base in a single game.

“Couple of really good at-bats,” Matheny said. “Not doing too much. Just let your natural power take over.”

Witt’s two-run blast in the eighth went a Statcast-projected distance of 411 feet with a 35-degree launch angle -- enough for Rays left fielder Randy Arozarena to barely move once Witt made contact on Ryan Yarbrough’s cutter.

“Just trying to get ahead with the first-pitch cutter,” Yarbrough said. “Not necessarily a bad location, but for a guy who's got a lot of juice, a lot of power right in his swing path."