'You against the world': Royals bats can't escape slump

July 8th, 2023

CLEVELAND -- After the Royals’ loss to the Guardians on Thursday, spoke about Kansas City's offensive struggles of late, saying that they hurt more when the Royals weren’t able to put runners in scoring position.

Twenty-four hours and nine scoreless innings later, manager Matt Quatraro had a more succinct description after the Royals' second shutout in three games led to a 3-0 loss to the Guardians on Friday night at Progressive Field.

“It feels like it’s you against the world sometimes,” Quatraro said. 

A day after getting six hits and leaving 11 men on base, the Royals only tallied three baserunners Friday. 

Kansas City’s offensive struggles started Wednesday against Minnesota’s Pablo López, who struck out 12 in his first career shutout. Thursday night, the Royals had Guardians starter Tanner Bibee on the ropes in the first two innings before he settled in.

And Friday, Aaron Civale got his turn by recording nine strikeouts in seven innings against Kansas City. Civale has now tallied nine strikeouts in two straight starts against the Royals. 

"He’s the second guy we’ve seen recently who has thrown 70% strikes,” Quatraro said. “ If you take, you’re behind. And if you swing, he’s got enough movement on the ball [to make you miss]. When you throw your pitches in the zone early, it makes it tough.”

The Royals’ lone hits against Civale were one-out doubles by Bobby Witt Jr. and MJ Melendez, which came in the fourth and fifth inning, respectively. Witt was left stranded at second after consecutive strikeouts, while Melendez advanced to third on a wild pitch but was also left stranded. Kansas City is 1-for-16 in its last three games with runners in scoring position. 

“These guys have to individualize every pitch and every at-bat,” Quatraro said. “There’s nothing you can do about the previous 27 innings, it’s about the pitch you’re competing against right there.”

The passion of that competition was evident in the seventh inning when Pratto was ejected for arguing a called third strike after his third strikeout Friday. Pratto slammed his helmet against the ground and jawed with home plate umpire Brennan Miller, who ejected Pratto as he was walking back to the dugout. 

“It’s pretty frustrating when things don’t go in your favor in that situation,” Pratto said. “I just disagreed with him and it got more emotional than I wanted it to.”

However, the Royals got a strong outing from their starting pitcher for the second straight game, this time in the form of a quality start from . Lynch, who entered Friday with an 8.87 ERA in five career starts against Cleveland, allowed three runs across six efficient innings on a night when he said he didn’t have his best stuff.

“The biggest takeaway was I mixed my pitches really well,” Lynch said. “I obviously threw a lot more sliders and curveballs today and they were really effective in helping me attack the zone.”

Lynch threw his slider 26% of the time on Friday (compared to a 17% usage rate during the season) and threw his curveball 12% of the time. He was able to generate four whiffs on the slider and one whiff and three called strikes with the curveball. Lynch allowed one run in the first inning after Amed Rosario scored on a Josh Naylor single before giving up a two-run home run to Josh Bell in the fourth inning.

“The pitch that Bell hit a homer on was a good pitch,” Lynch said. “Good hitter. Tip your cap. Good teams that have good hitters are going to get runs off you. Even though the line wasn’t as good, I thought that might have been more of a complete game.”

Lynch had a minor injury scare in the sixth inning when Salvador Perez had Quatraro come out of the dugout after he noticed that Lynch’s fastball was at 89.6 mph. After Lynch assured Quatraro that he was fine, he finished the inning off with a strikeout of David Fry. 

“I just didn’t have my best stuff tonight but that’s part of the game, you have to compete with what you have,” Lynch said. “That’s him being the great teammate he is and wanting to make sure everything was OK.”

With just two games before the All-Star break, the Royals are eager to get on a roll offensively before the four-day hiatus. 

“[We’ve got to] just keep pressing on,” Pratto said. “What else can you do? There’s only one way to go from here.”