How two simple changes have sparked Melendez's second half

August 10th, 2023

BOSTON -- has been searching for the right swing and the feeling that comes with it for most of 2023, and a recent mechanical adjustment and mindset change finally has him closer to where the young Royals outfielder needs to be.

Melendez mashed two more home runs on Wednesday night in the Royals’ wacky 4-3 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park. It was Melendez’s second career multihomer game, and he now has four homers and five RBIs in his past four games.

After hitting .206 with a .622 OPS before the All-Star break, Melendez has a hit in 19 of his 24 games in the second half, during which he’s batting .281 with an .891 OPS. In 60 fewer games, he’s matched his home run total from the first half and now has 12 on the season.

“I think it’s just more mentally than anything,” Melendez said. “There are some days that I still don’t feel the best at the plate. … I used to try to think about my swing, now I’m telling myself just to compete even if I don’t feel the best. It’s helped me.

“Then working in the cages before the game, doing my routine, making myself uncomfortable so when I get to the games, I can feel a little better.”

Melendez hit the cages every day during the All-Star break to retool his swing, and he’s finally seeing the results translate to the field. His hands are farther away from his body, his bat path is staying in line with the ball when he makes contact and he doesn’t look as lost at the plate when making those swing decisions.

In the second inning Wednesday, Melendez was looking for Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta’s fastball in a 1-1 count. Pivetta threw one near the top of the zone and Melendez pounced on it, sending it a career-best 445 feet into the right-field seats.

Melendez had two strikes in his next at-bat against Pivetta in the fourth, and again he got a fastball -- this time on the outside part of the zone. Melendez sent it the opposite way, topping the Green Monster for the second day in a row after an umpire review ruled it did go over the wall.

This hasn’t been an easy year for Melendez, who is still learning how to play corner outfield and hasn’t seen the power the Royals hope to see out of the 24-year-old. But that’s starting to change lately, and if he continues the power surge to all fields, he makes Kansas City's lineup that much deeper.

“It validates the work he’s been putting in and the progress he’s making,” manager Matt Quatraro said.

However, Melendez’s offensive heroics weren’t enough to surge the Royals past the Red Sox. Kansas City’s poor luck started with a break never seen before at Fenway Park. Center fielder Kyle Isbel drilled a 96.6 mph rocket to the Green Monster in left field on Wednesday night, smashing through a light fixture that’s used to signify the number of outs on Fenway’s manual scoreboard. Because the ball was nowhere to be found for left fielder Masataka Yoshida, the hit was ruled a ground-rule double, and instead of scoring a run, Matt Duffy had to return to third base.

In the fourth inning, second baseman Michael Massey lost a popup near the right-field line in the twilight and it dropped in for a leadoff double. Then with two outs, Alex Verdugo lined a ball to left field, where Melendez’s diving attempt came up short. The ball bounced off his glove and went for a two-run double.

“That’s the difference in the game right there, and unfortunately, I wasn’t able to come up with it,” Melendez said. “Hit my glove and went out, it was a tough play. It kind of ate at me throughout the game.”

Royals starter Jordan Lyles, who threw his second complete game of the season by allowing four runs in eight innings, got a lineout that should have ended the fourth inning, but Freddy Fermin was called for catcher’s interference -- and Lyles allowed an RBI single to the next batter.

“I need to make better pitches after that,” Lyles said. “Couple of those misfortune plays, I’ve got to do a better job of picking up my teammates. It seems like this year, I haven’t done a good job of that, getting that fourth or fifth out of the inning. So I’ve got to be better at picking them up in those situations.”