MINNEAPOLIS -- The Royals’ disappointing month is over.
The Royals won three of their 10 games on this three-city road trip, and they ended the first month of the season (which included Opening Day on March 30) with a 7-22 mark. That matches the worst 29-game start in club history, previously done in 2005 and ‘06.
What can the Royals do to change their ways when the calendar flips to May?
“I think we’re trying to look for anything here to flip the script from April,” said first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino, who went 3-for-4 with two RBIs on Sunday. “Whether that's a new month, whether that’s a homestand. Anything.”
On the pitching side, the most important task right now is to get Singer back on track. The Royals’ breakout starter in 2022 and a key piece of the rotation’s future, Singer has an 8.49 ERA in six starts this year. His outing against the Twins flipped in an instant.
Singer cruised through two innings on 24 pitches and he had two outs in the third when Byron Buxton, who homered in three of the four games this series, crushed a 453-foot, three-run homer on an elevated fastball.
Three singles and a hit batsman later, Singer was exiting the game having been unable to complete the third inning for the first time since Sept. 28, 2021. He threw 66 pitches total, 42 in the third.
“That’s what makes it more frustrating,” Singer said of his efficient two innings. “I felt like all the pitches had the right movement and was looking to have a pretty good day there. They just put a lot of hits together. It spun on me there.”
Singer said he stuck with the new slider grip he debuted in Arizona last week, but the Twins either didn’t bite on it out of the zone or hit it when it landed in the zone.
Minnesota sent 12 batters to the plate in the third inning, and Jorge Polanco made the second and third outs with strikeouts. After Josh Staumont allowed the inherited runners to score in the third, the bullpen held things down like it did all trip; the unit allowed just 12 earned runs over 40 1/3 innings with 52 strikeouts, including nine on Sunday.
Offensively, the Royals showed encouraging signs this series, including scoring four runs in the back half of the finale. But they have scored the second-fewest runs in the Majors and have the worst team OPS (.624) in baseball. They also have the highest swing rate in baseball and are chasing at a high clip. Some of this has to do with the anxiousness of young hitters trying to prove themselves. But the veterans on the team are not performing, either.
Hunter Dozier struck out three times on Sunday, which raised his strikeout rate to 34.8%. He’s slashing .161/.212/.226 this season. Franmil Reyes was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Both struck out in the second inning with Edward Olivares on third base.
“You look at the second inning, we had a runner on third base, less than two [outs],” Pasquantino said. “We weren’t able to get him in. That’s the big thing, if you can get a run off Sonny Gray, who’s been unbelievable this year, you kind of flip the script a little bit.
“The same old tune -- runners in scoring position, we’ve got to do a better job.”
With versatile players Maikel Garcia and Samad Taylor performing well in Triple-A, the Royals must make a roster decision.
Reyes, who made the team as a non-roster invitee out of Spring Training, has two Minor League options remaining. Dozier, who is owed $16.75 million over this year and next, presents a tougher decision because of his contract. But it is a conversation the club is having, according to sources.
The Royals headed back to Kansas City knowing they must change the tune of a 1-12 home record. They have a fresh month to do it. That starts on Tuesday against the Orioles.
“It’s one day at a time,” manager Matt Quatraro said. “Just because the month changes doesn’t mean you should change your mindset or anything like that. These guys are doing a good job of coming in every day ready to work and ready to compete.”