HR derby! Royals put on power show with 5 dingers

Singer strikes out 10 over seven scoreless frames

March 31st, 2024

KANSAS CITY -- After struggling to back up an excellent outing by a Royals starter with some offense for the second consecutive game to open the season, found Royals pitching coach Brian Sweeney after Saturday’s loss to the Twins and made a promise:

We’ll get you some runs. I promise you that.

It didn’t take long to follow through. Witt and the Royals offense erupted Sunday with an 11-0 blowout win over the Twins at Kauffman Stadium to avoid a series sweep and give Kansas City its first victory of 2024.

“There they go,” Sweeney said to Witt in the dugout after the Royals jumped to a lead on Salvador Perez’s three-run homer.

There they went -- and went and went, because the offense didn’t stop.

The Royals hit five home runs Sunday; Perez, Witt, Maikel Garcia, Kyle Isbel and Nelson Velázquez all went over the fence, marking the 25th game in franchise history with five-plus home runs, and the first since Aug. 20, 2021, at Wrigley Field. The Royals hadn't hit five-plus home runs at Kauffman Stadium since July 22, 2017, against the White Sox.

The Royals sent 18 players to the plate in the first two innings. Witt was a double shy of the cycle by the third inning. Meanwhile, starter shoved in his season debut, tossing seven scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts, three hits, one walk and two hit batters.

“Ten runs makes it a little easier to be in the zone and trust your stuff,” Singer said. “That was a heck of a first win there for us.”

Singer said he was able to pair his sinker-slider combination with his new four-seamer and sweeper, although Baseball Savant registered just one sweeper and no four-seamers. On Singer’s slider, Twins hitters whiffed 16 times on 26 swings (62%).

Singer stayed locked in even with the Royals running up the score. Kansas City’s starters have allowed just two runs across 19 innings to begin the season -- and following Cole Ragans and Seth Lugo, Singer didn’t want to be “the guy that sucked,” he said.

“That’s something I’ve learned over my career is to not slow down,” Singer said. “Don’t take off intensity even if you’ve got a 10-run lead. That was something I told myself early in the game when we got all those runs.”

After Singer’s six-pitch first inning, the Royals pounced on Twins starter Bailey Ober. Witt, who was 6-for-11 in the first series, hit a 110.1 mph single off Ober’s elevated fastball.

“His swing is the one that started it for me,” manager Matt Quatraro said. “He got on top of that fastball for the base hit. … To know that’s where [Ober] lives, and he’s sneaky and can get above your barrel. To work on top of some of those balls was nice.”

Vinnie Pasquantino worked a six-pitch at-bat and got a fastball in the middle of the zone that he sent into left field for his first hit of the season. And Perez got to two strikes early before crushing a down-and-away changeup 390 feet over the left field fence.

That’s the kind of offense the Royals want and need to see from their big boppers at the top and middle of the lineup.

“We knew what we’re capable of,” Witt said. “We knew this was there. It just had to click. And Salvy got us going. It’s great to see, and shows everyone what this offense can do. And it’s just kind of getting started.”

Isbel and Garcia went back-to-back off Ober to begin the second inning, and Witt followed with a triple. The Royals scored another six runs in the second, and Witt added another with his first homer of the season in the third -- a 434-foot rocket to the deepest part of center field.

Witt came to bat in the fifth and seventh looking to become the first Royal to hit for the cycle since George Brett in 1990, but struck out both times.

“I didn’t want to try to put too much pressure on myself,” Witt said. “I got a couple pitches I should have hit.”

While history will have to wait for Witt, the Royals certainly made their mark Sunday. Relievers Matt Sauer -- making his MLB debut in the eighth inning -- and Jordan Lyles kept the shutout intact. And with Witt’s promise to Sweeney kept, they’re hoping it’s just the start of what’s to come in ‘24.

“We got three great starts [this series],” Quatraro said. “[The Twins] had two really good starts the last two days. Those games can go either way. They beat us the last two days, and fortunately for us, it was a little payback today.”