Tough loss punctuates last homestand before Deadline

July 28th, 2022

KANSAS CITY -- For a second consecutive game, the Royals felt like they gave away a win despite solid starting pitching as a nonexistent offense resulted in their 4-0 series-deciding loss to the Angels on Wednesday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium.

It was the second time this season the Royals were shut out in back-to-back games, and they left 17 on base between these two tilts against the Angels.

“You just think about games that you feel you should have had a shot at,” manager Mike Matheny said. “We didn’t get much going offensively, and when we did, we didn’t get the big hit.”

The Royals finished the homestand 3-3 and will now head to New York and Chicago for a seven-day road trip to end July and begin August.

“This will be telling for us to see what kind of team we are going on the road to two really good teams,” said starter Brad Keller, who took the loss on his 27th birthday despite a quality start. “I’m excited about it.”

Keller cruised through four innings Wednesday without allowing a hit before getting dinged for two runs in the fifth, and he got a key double play ball in the sixth when the Angels loaded the bases with one out.

It has been an up and down year so far for Keller as he holds a 4.18 ERA across 107 2/3 innings, but the value of those innings shouldn't be discredited. The right-hander has pitched into the seventh inning in 10 of his 18 starts this year.

“I was pretty happy to get that far today, especially after having a shorter one my first time out of the break,” Keller said. “I wish I was able to bear down to get even more outs.”

That workhorse mentality is why the right-hander is garnering some interest from other teams ahead of the Aug. 2 Trade Deadline, sources told, but the Royals aren’t keen on moving on from Keller unless they are blown away by an offer. Without knowing what veteran Zack Greinke’s plans are next season, the Royals want a starter who they can count on to go deep in games.

“Brad is a guy that can really do that for us, and it takes the pressure off,” Matheny said.

Still, with several opposing scouts in attendance this week at Kauffman Stadium and the Trade Deadline looming next Tuesday, it’s hard not to wonder what this roster will look like when the Royals return to Kansas City on Aug. 4 to face the Red Sox.

Clearly sellers during an underperforming 2022 season, the Royals made their first big move of the Trade Deadline season when they sent outfielder Andrew Benintendi -- a free agent at the end of this year -- to the Yankees for three mid-level pitching prospects later on Wednesday night in a deal that came together quickly after the series finale against the Angels.

The Royals will now face Benintendi in New York a little more than 24 hours after sharing a clubhouse with him.

“We tell our young guys, just pay attention to how this guy goes about his business,” Matheny said of Benintendi. “He’s talented, and the consistency isn’t a coincidence. It’s taken him a long time and work to get back there. He’s impressive to watch.”

The Benintendi deal will likely not be the only trade the Royals make in the next six days, although how much of a roster overhaul the Royals will go through remains to be seen. Sources say they’ve been open to discussions about utilityman Whit Merrifield, center fielder Michael A. Taylor and reliever Josh Staumont, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning Wednesday.

But the club isn’t going to trade these three just for the sake of trading them, believing they can help Kansas City win in the future still: Merrifield with his versatility, Taylor with his elite defense and improving offense and Staumont with his 100-mph fastball and high-leverage arm. Merrifield and Taylor both are under contract through 2023, and Staumont isn’t a free agent until ’26.

Reliever Scott Barlow is another name that keeps popping up, but the Royals must be convinced enough by the potential return to part with their most reliable reliever while knowing they must improve their bullpen for next season.

Barlow has been consistent for two years and counting, with a 2.23 ERA since the start of 2021. He’s controllable until 2025, and his stuff could no doubt help a playoff team down the stretch and in October. But the Royals also believe he offers value staying in Kansas City for the next few years, too.