Royals continue to make things hard on themselves in first

June 13th, 2024

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals decided to use an opener for on Wednesday night against the Yankees for a variety of reasons. One was to try to avoid the first-inning problems that Lynch has dealt with in his career and that the Royals have dealt with this homestand.

Lynch ended up having to pitch in the first inning anyway, coming in with the bases loaded, and the first-inning trend did not go away.

Opener faced six batters and recorded one out in the first inning, and he was ultimately charged with five runs in the Royals’ 11-5 loss to the Yankees’ at Kauffman Stadium. Lynch allowed a three-run homer to Jose Trevino that put Kansas City in a six-run deficit before it stepped to the plate.

The Royals have lost four games in a row for the first time this year, and they’ll look to avoid being swept for the first time when they finish up this series and homestand on Thursday afternoon. In all six games of this homestand, the Royals have been behind after the top of the first inning. They’ve been able to come back from some of those.

The three games against the Yankees have almost felt over before they really began.

“That’s really tough,” manager Matt Quatraro said. “A couple of runs is one thing. Big innings are tough to come back from regardless. We’ve done it. … We clearly don’t want to be down at all, but six is really tough to chase, especially against a team like that.”

The Yankees (49-21) are the best team in the American League for a reason. Staying competitive in these games was the goal, but it has been the toughest test the Royals (39-30) have had this season. They’ll get one more chance Thursday, when Alec Marsh takes the mound hoping to halt the skid.

The Yankees have been better in every facet of the game this series. They’ve scored 25 runs while allowing only eight. It’s well known that New York’s lineup is a juggernaut, but its pitching has held the Royals quiet for most of the series.

“It’s fun to play these guys. It’s fun to get teams that you want to play against,” shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. said. “These are the guys we want to match up against. So you just got to keep learning and keep getting better. Because we got to get better, obviously, and then just take things one day at a time and learn from what we’re doing.”

It wasn’t until later Wednesday that the Royals showed some spark, scoring their five runs in the sixth and seventh. Witt drove in two of those and extended his hitting streak to 13 games with his RBI double in the sixth inning.

Royals pitching hasn’t been able to keep pace with New York. The rotation is struggling for the first time this season, and Lynch was charged with six runs in 6 2/3 innings. The three homers he allowed were all multi-run blasts, including a Statcast-projected 449-foot two-run shot from Giancarlo Stanton in the fifth and a 415-foot three-run blast from Gleyber Torres in the seventh.

“Obviously, giving up damage like that, you don’t want to do that,” Lynch said. “Obviously, that last homer really just kills your night.

“... I wanted to kind of go out there and be on the attack, like, ‘Hey, I’m good enough to start games.’ Obviously, I respect whatever decision the manager decides to make on that, but my mentality was -- I wanted to go in there and say, ‘Hey, I’m a good starter, I’m good enough to go deep into games without having someone open for me.’”

The Royals used an opener for Lynch for the first time in his career. The thought was to get Altavilla, who made his club debut Monday, through the first inning depending on how he was navigating the lineup.

But Anthony Volpe led off with a single, Juan Soto walked and Aaron Judge hit an opposite-field single to load the bases. With one out, Altavilla got Alex Verdugo to hit a ground ball, but it took a sharp hop on first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino and flipped into right field.

Two runs scored, and when Altavilla walked Torres, Quatraro summoned Lynch.

“They’ve got a good lineup,” Altavilla said. “Just didn’t have a good day. … You have to execute pitches, just like any other lineup. If you don’t get ahead, they’ll hurt you. I think we were really close to getting out of that inning. Just a bad hop and we didn’t get it.”