KANSAS CITY -- The Royals entered Sunday having lost two uninspiring games to the Tigers in a row, searching for solutions on how to quell Detroit’s lineup and hoping to avoid a sweep to the team at the bottom of the American League Central.
The answer was found in a masterful start from Brady Singer, the 26-year-old who is blossoming into a potential frontline starter for the Royals in his third season in the Majors.
Singer shoved for seven scoreless innings in the Royals’ 4-0 win over the Tigers at Kauffman Stadium, holding the Tigers to four hits while striking out six and walking one. Singer has been a bright spot for the Royals’ pitching staff this season, holding a 3.21 ERA across 21 starts (24 appearances).
Sunday marked his fourth start this season of at least seven scoreless innings, matching Triston McKenzie for the most such starts in the American League.
“He thrives in situations that are tough or a little different,” manager Mike Matheny said. “He knows we’ve lost a couple games. It’s almost like he wills it to happen. ‘I got to be good today. This team needs me.’ That’s what the good ones do, whether they have their good stuff or not.
“So you take that mentality, mix it with good stuff, you’re going to see special things happen. Today was a special outing for Brady.”
Singer is now 6-0 and has a 2.44 ERA in 10 career starts against the Tigers, which accounts for more than 35% of his 17 career victories. He’s held Detroit to one run or fewer in six of his 10 starts and has allowed no more than two runs in eight outings.
“I try to keep my mentality the same all the time, but with the two losses before, the mentality was a little bit better today,” Singer said. “Going out there, trying to get deep in the game and going right at them. They’ve had two good offensive days, so to go out there and do that was big.”
When the Tigers had offensive opportunities, momentum stayed on Singer’s side. Riley Greene hit Singer’s first pitch of the day for a single, but that was quickly erased by a double play. In the second, Kerry Carpenter -- who was teammates with Singer at Eustis (Fla.) High School in 2015 -- drew a two-out walk and went to third on Jonathan Schoop’s single. A groundout moments later ended the frame.
In the seventh, Spencer Torkelson doubled with one out and went to third on a wild pitch. Singer reared back to strike out Carpenter and then got a groundout, putting the finishing touches on his scoreless outing.
“He does a good job of keeping his pace, and I think that really helps his rhythm out,” Torkelson said after the 2-hour, 11-minute game. “It feels like you walk up there and you've got two strikes on you because he's working so fast.”
Pitching better with runners in scoring position has been one positive step forward for Singer in 2022. Last year, batters slashed .310/.400/.492 against Singer with runners in scoring position; entering Sunday, batters had a .200/.298/.313 slash line in that spot against him this year.
“In the past, I’ve been picking around guys, trying to get them to chase,” Singer said. “But now I’m just trying to throw pitches in the zone.”
Singer’s sinker-slider combination has always been lethal when he has good command, but the addition of his changeup this year has added another weapon for left-handed hitters to worry about. He’s also elevated his sinker better than ever; Ryan Kreidler swung through an up-and-in sinkerball in the third on Sunday, and Carpenter’s strikeout in the seventh was also through an elevated sinker.
“Kind of have learned that more this year, using the sinker up in the zone is a whole different pitch,” Singer said. “Guys are probably looking low in the zone with the sinker and slider. So to [elevate] it at times is helpful.”
But Singer’s most helpful pitch Sunday was his slider. The pitch wasn’t as sharp in his previous two starts, but he found the hard bite to it Sunday by “setting the sights lower,” he said. Not only did the Tigers whiff on seven of them, but they also took 10 sliders for called strikes.
“Every once in a while … it isn’t a slow loop,” Matheny said. “It just takes a hard turn. He found the feel for when he wanted it for strikes, had the feel for when he wanted to put it below the zone.”
On Sunday, Singer had a feel for just about everything. And it helped him put together another stellar start in a season full of them.