Lynch hangs tough after 3-city jaunt to final stop on road trip

Royals lefty logs 5 solid frames in spot start vs. Twins following recall from Triple-A Omaha

May 30th, 2024

MINNEAPOLIS -- woke up on Wednesday morning in Indiana. He spent the late afternoon flying to North Carolina and then the evening flying to Minnesota.

And on Thursday morning, Lynch was preparing to face the Twins in a matter of hours.

The Royals recalled Lynch from Triple-A Omaha to make an emergency start when Brady Singer was scratched due to illness. The lefty acquitted himself well, giving up just three runs (two earned) over five innings. He left with a lead, but the bullpen couldn’t hold it, and another ninth-inning comeback by Kansas City fell just short in a 7-6 loss at Target Field.

Losing three of four to the Twins wasn’t an ideal way to wrap up a 3-4 road trip after winning a series against the Rays, but the Royals can take heart in a couple of important developments -- namely, some of their struggling hitters are showing signs of turning it around, and of course, the success of their well-traveled left-hander.

Lynch got the call late Wednesday afternoon -- while with Omaha in Indianapolis -- notifying him that his presence was requested in Minneapolis. That touched off his zig-zagging path across the eastern half of the United States, a total of 1,358 air miles.

“My wife was there [in Indianapolis], so she dropped me off at the airport. Flew to Charlotte, flew here,” Lynch said. “I did some more scouting work on the plane and then they had a really good plan when I got here. Everyone here was really prepared, so I was ready to go.”

Lynch cruised through the first three innings against the Twins, allowing just one hit. He took a 4-0 lead into the fourth. But that’s when the lanky southpaw hit a bit of turbulence. Maikel Garcia couldn’t handle Carlos Correa’s grounder, resulting in an error. Then, Ryan Jeffers hit the first of his two homers on the day, cutting the Royals’ lead in half.

Minnesota loaded the bases with one out, thanks to a pair of singles and a hit batsman. But Lynch buckled down, striking out Carlos Santana and retiring Christian Vázquez on a fly ball to left.

“I’m pretty confident that I can make pitches, but in that situation, I was just happy to keep us in the game,” Lynch said.

Jeffers stung him again in the fifth, this time with a solo shot, but Lynch walked off the mound at the end of the inning with a 4-3 lead.

“He threw the ball well,” manager Matt Quatraro said. “He forced contact, got them early swinging, pitch count was really low. They got to him with the home-run ball, but other than that, he threw the ball really well.”

Lynch’s teammates also appreciated the effort, especially considering the time and distance involved in the journey to get there.

“Coming into the game, for him to do that and pitch as well as he did, that’s extremely tough,” left fielder MJ Melendez said. “So big props to him being able to just stay ready, stay mentally locked in, and physically, he just looked good as well.”

Melendez was the latest Royals hitter to show signs of breaking out. Hunter Refroe had three doubles on the road trip. Nelson Velázquez homered twice on Wednesday. And on Thursday, Melendez logged four strong plate appearances, including his first home run and RBI on the road this season.

It started with a 12-pitch at-bat in the second inning. Melendez fouled off seven pitches from Twins starter Chris Paddack before smashing a 95.5-mph line drive that was headed to right field, only to be caught by a diving Santana at first base.

“It’s been awhile since I’ve hit a ball like that,” Melendez said. “It felt good. It was good for my confidence. I think my first at-bat really helped me. I saw all of his pitches and just a little bit of a confidence boost there, even though it didn’t end up resulting in a hit.”

That confidence was evident in the rest of his at-bats. In the fourth, Melendez jumped on Paddack’s first pitch and sent it a Statcast-projected 416 feet to right field for his fifth homer of the year. In the sixth, he fouled off two fastballs from lefty reliever Caleb Thielbar to work a full-count walk.

And in the ninth, Melendez lined out to left against closer Jhoan Duran. The last two balls Melendez hit were 109 mph and 108.9 mph off the bat.

“The hitting coaches, I thank them a lot because they’ve been able to help me figure out a lot of things,” Melendez said. “Obviously, it’s still a work in progress. … But we’ve tried to make some adjustments and I feel like we’ve made a couple here on this road trip.”