Holy smokes! Olivares' mammoth HR smashes scoreboard

Game-tying 452-foot blast the spark for Royals' walk-off win over Nationals

May 28th, 2023

KANSAS CITY -- Smoke poured out of the gaping hole at the bottom of Kauffman Stadium’s left-field scoreboard, where ’ 111-mph rocket of a homer had just left serious damage to the electrical panel -- and to the game.

The 452-foot blast, stopped only by that pesky scoreboard on the Royals Hall of Fame building in left field, tied Sunday’s game in the eighth inning and set up ’s ninth-inning walk-off single, which gave the Royals a 3-2 win to take the final game of the series against the Nationals.

As for the scoreboard? Well, Olivares doesn’t have any regrets.

“Sorry, but not sorry,” Olivares said with a sly grin. “It tied the game.”

Silenced early by Nationals starter MacKenzie Gore and his career-high 11 strikeouts in seven innings, the Royals scored in the seventh, eighth and ninth to earn their sixth comeback win of the season. All of the key contributors in Sunday’s win were young players Kansas City plans to build around in the coming years.

That’s why sealing the win was so important. The Royals are just 16-38 this season, their second-worst record through one-third (54 games) of a season.

But sometimes seeing is believing.

“They are hungry, aggressive and young players who want to win,” manager Matt Quatraro said. “Sometimes it takes getting that win to believe you can do it. … A majority of these games are close in the middle innings, some of them, like today, even the late innings. It’s just a matter of swinging those games in your favor.

“It’s much easier said than done, but until you do it, you don’t know if you can do it. Until you do it a couple of times, you don’t know how that can snowball.”

Each at-bat against Gore, Royals hitters learned more. saw five sliders and one fastball in his second-inning flyout, then three fastballs and one curveball in his fourth-inning strikeout.

By his third at-bat in the seventh, Melendez had seen everything. So when he got a fastball in the zone, he was on time and deposited it in the left-center-field seats.

“What [Gore] did well was just mix pitches -- different at-bats he did completely different stuff,” Melendez said. “Going into that third at-bat, I wanted to stay locked in and be ready for the fastball.”

The Royals entered the seventh trailing by only one run thanks to starter and the bullpen.

Making his 2023 debut after missing the first two months due to injury, Lynch allowed two runs in 5 1/3 innings, striking out six and walking three. There were some things to clean up -- like a 34-pitch fourth inning that led to the two runs -- but overall, Lynch looked sharp and felt healthy.

Those are two good signs as he kicks off his season, which is a big one for the 26-year-old. The Royals are counting on him to be a key piece of their rotation moving forward.

Lynch relied on his slider and changeup as his put-away pitches, getting six whiffs on 14 swings (43%) with his slider and five whiffs on 11 swings (45%) with his changeup. He also landed three of the five knuckle curves he threw for called strikes. After his 34-pitch fourth inning, he threw an eight-pitch fifth inning, which allowed him to return to get one out in the sixth.

“Felt like my stuff was good,” Lynch said. “Felt like I attacked. Maybe in the fourth, I could have shrunk the misses a bit. I had a few uncompetitive misses. But first game back, it’s a lot of intensity. And good hitters over there. So I felt like the stuff was good, and I want to keep building on that."

Olivares, whom the Royals are committed to playing in left field as they evaluate his role with the club, has been searching for his timing in May, slashing just .153/.231/.271 this month. But he was well-prepared for sliders when he stepped to the plate against Chad Kuhl in the eighth, mashing the scoreboard with a hanging slider.

“One at-bat can flip the switch for somebody, and they can start feeling better,” Quatraro said. “And he’s taken really good swings the last couple of days.”

In the ninth, Melendez reached second base on an error by Nationals first baseman Dominic Smith. As the Nationals convened for a mound visit, Massey used the time to his advantage.

This is, after all, the season to learn what the young players can do and who they can be.

“This is where we’re going to start learning from some of the experiences that we’ve been able to get in the past, experiences in that moment where I’ve chased or gotten a lot of offspeed,” Massey said. “So just trying to recall those moments and put myself in a good frame of mind."