Singer stuck in 'middle' too much against O's

Royals right-hander goes just 2-plus innings, lacks command in key 5-run 3rd

July 18th, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- A day after the Royals jumped on the Orioles’ starting pitcher early, Baltimore reversed the roles.

gave up six runs in two-plus innings in Kansas City’s 8-4 loss on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium in the shortest start (non-injury related) of the right-hander’s season.

Singer breezed through the first inning, but he faced trouble in the second with two singles and a walk. He got out of it with just two runs scored, but as the Orioles’ lineup turned over for the first time, it pounced on Singer in the third.

“No fastball command today,” manager Mike Matheny said. “The sliders he did make, he hadn’t really sped them up or got them to respect the fastball enough to get away with them. It’s one of those days where he didn’t have a feel.”

A leadoff double was followed by five consecutive singles to spiral into four runs and force Singer into throwing 60 total pitches by the time Matheny walked to the mound to lift him. Singer faced six batters in the third without recording an out before Richard Lovelady came in to clean up the mess.

The issue for Singer was a lack of fastball command, which allowed hitters to sit on his slider or hit the ones he threw in the middle of the plate. He fell behind in the count to the first three batters in the second inning and then either fell behind or threw balls in the middle of the zone on the first pitch in the third inning.

“Command got away from me in the second,” Singer said. “Fell behind the count a lot. And ended up spiraling down on me. Most of the misses were right down the middle. Any team’s going to take advantage of pitches in the middle of the plate.”

Singer registered just five whiffs on the 23 swings he induced, and as the O's lineup jumped on his sinker and slider, he didn’t turn to his changeup, a pitch he’s been encouraged to use more in his outings this year as he often relies on his two-pitch mix -- a sinker/slider combination -- to face opposing lineups.

As Singer establishes himself in the rotation and continues his development, the addition of his changeup regularly is going to be the next step for him in his career.

That wasn’t going to come on Saturday, though. When Singer falls behind in the count like he did and struggles to establish his fastball, he’s going to use his best stuff and the pitches he’s most confident in to get out of trouble before going to his changeup.

“He’s going to attack with his best stuff when you get into those binds,” Matheny said. “You’re not going to want to lose or give up something with the third best pitch in that situation. He’s going to need to throw it. He’s going to develop it. But it’s going to be against hitters when he’s working in favorable counts. And he wasn’t working ahead a lot today. Didn’t give him a lot of opportunities to get to it.”

Singer added: “I had plenty of outings where I didn’t throw the changeup, but I had plus command on my fastball and slider. Tonight, ball’s in the middle of the plate. Doesn’t matter if I got a third pitch or not. It doesn’t matter at all, actually.

“It’s going to get hit. I’ve got to learn how to stay out of the middle of the plate and stay ahead.”

Singer left the Royals in a tough spot to cover innings after using five relievers on Friday night, but lefty Kris Bubic fixed that problem with six innings of one-run ball in relief. It was his third relief outing of at least five innings this season, breaking a tie with Ryan Yarbrough, Josh Fleming and Nabil Crismatt for most in the Majors -- and becoming the first Royals pitcher with three such outings since Terry Leach in 1989.

As both Singer and Bubic develop at the Major League level this year, Saturday night was one for Bubic to remember. The way he utilized his curveball built off the past month, when he’s thrown the pitch with more confidence even as he’s allowed hits off of it.

Similar to Singer, developing a third pitch at this level is going to be what helps Bubic reach his potential in the coming years for the Royals.

“The ability to throw the curveball, I think that’s one silver lining of the last month or so,” Bubic said. “Being able to open the playbook a little more on that and take off the pressure on the other two pitches.”