Singer struggles with command, yields 5 HRs

September 12th, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- A day after the Twins jumped on a Royals starter with home runs in the first inning, they did it again on Saturday -- and this time they just kept piling on.

Starter allowed six runs on five homers on Saturday night, and the Royals’ offense couldn’t keep up in their 9-2 loss at Target Field, as the Twins evened the series ahead of Sunday afternoon’s finale.

Coming off his best outing of the year against the White Sox last weekend, Singer couldn’t build off of his success. The Twins hammered five home runs off of the right-hander in 4 2/3 innings to rack up six runs. Two came in the first inning, another in the second, one more in the fourth and the final home run -- Jorge Polanco’s two-run blast for his second of the day -- came in the fifth.

Singer had allowed just nine home runs this season entering Saturday. He had never allowed more than two in a game in his career.

“This is a team that thrives -- most of their success comes on the long ball,” manager Mike Matheny said. “Especially in this ballpark. You have to try and figure out how to navigate when you get to the two-strike count. He just didn’t have enough weapons to get it done.”

Singer got to two strikes with every single home run, but he couldn’t find the sinker or slider to bury the hitter. Byron Buxton’s 444-foot home run in the first inning came on a sinker that catcher Salvador Perez set up for on the outside part of the zone. It started out on that trajectory, but whizzed back over the middle for Buxton to get the barrel on it and drive to the second deck in left-center field.

The same thing happened a batter later with Polanco hitting left-handed. Perez set up for an inside sinker, and it crept back over the plate. Polanco lined it 387 feet into the right-field bleachers.

The next two home runs came on hanging sliders, which Singer didn’t have a feel for as the game wore on. Nick Gordon blasted one 432 feet in the second inning, and Max Kepler drove one 382 feet to right field in the fourth inning.

“When I got to two strikes, I couldn’t bury anything,” Singer said. “It was spinning out of my hand there. The slider wasn’t very good all night.”

This is the danger of Singer’s two-pitch mix, one that’s shown too many times this season and been part of the reason he has a 4-10 record and 4.85 ERA. Against the White Sox last week, Singer flashed the best fastball command he’s shown all season, and his slider had the typical depth and bite that misses so many bats. He didn’t need a third pitch; the White Sox were having enough trouble with his first two.

But when Singer doesn’t have a feel for the sinker or slider, he relies heavily on the one that’s working. On Saturday, he kept throwing sliders, which got him into trouble later.

“I felt like every time I got to two strikes, I tried to make it too good, and it backed up on me and left it in the middle of the plate,” Singer said.

To combat this problem, the Royals have encouraged Singer to incorporate his changeup more often. Five of his 97 pitches on Saturday were changeups.

“We’re always hoping he throws more,” Matheny said. “Once you’re out there and you’re competing, you’re going to go with what you feel is going to give you your best shot.”

Despite four of the five being balls, Singer said he liked the action to it and the situations in which he threw it to left-handed batters.

There just weren’t enough to keep the Twins off balance, and when Singer made mistakes with his other two, hitters pounced.

“It’s one of those days that reinforces the fact of that third pitch, how important it’s going to be,” Matheny said. “Because for whatever reason, one of those pitches is going to elude you [at times]. It’s been the fastball command at times, today was really the first day he didn’t have his slider all season. His fastball was able to get him into counts, where normally he would have a good chance of putting guys away, but he couldn’t when he didn’t have his slider.”