'Incredible': Lovelady on win celebration 

July 3rd, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- Any time watched one of his teammates get a proper celebration in the Royals' clubhouse for their first Major League win or save or any sort of “first” in the big leagues, he always thought it would be, well, gross to go through that. Traditionally, teammates shower the player with anything they can find in the clubhouse, and it can get messy fast.

But when Lovelady experienced it after his first Major League win Friday night, he didn’t regret a thing.

“Honestly, seeing it beforehand, I was just like, ‘God, that’s going to be absolutely awful,’” Lovelady said. “But once you get to experience it, it’s incredible. It really is.”

Lovelady earned the win Friday over the Twins with two scoreless innings, allowing one hit, one walk and one strikeout as he gave the Royals another impressive outing following Brady Singer’s short start. In two outings since being recalled on Tuesday, Lovelady hasn’t allowed a run in 3 2/3 innings. It’s a continuation of the work he showed in Triple-A Omaha throughout June that led to him rejoining the Kansas City bullpen.

After a right oblique strain delayed his season coming out of the alternate training site, Lovelady returned to Omaha at the beginning of June and allowed just one run in 8 1/3 innings, with nine strikeouts and five hits. Now, he gives the Royals another effective lefty in the bullpen.

“A year ago, especially coming out of Summer Camp, it was about stuff and execution and strike zone,” manager Mike Matheny said. “He found that sweet spot to where his stuff looks right, ball’s coming out good and he’s pounding the strike zone. As much deception and movement he has, and he has a lot of things that are different than everybody else in the way he delivers the ball -- that’s an advantage to him if he can stay in the strike zone with at least two pitches.

“What we were hoping for as we left Spring Training is him finding that consistency where he can be in the zone. And that’s where he is now.”

Lovelady exited Friday’s game not knowing if he was in line for the win. The Royals tied the game and took the lead while Singer was still the pitcher of record, but the right-hander pitched only three innings. The Royals never relinquished their lead after Singer exited, and the official scorer deemed Lovelady the most effective in a string of relievers Friday.

“After I came back out after working out and doing all the [treatment], everyone’s congratulating me, and I was like, ‘Oh wow, this is incredible, this is my first win’” Lovelady said after making his 28th career appearance since debuting in 2018.

‘Special’ night at The K
The nine-game losing streak that the Royals were riding heading into this weekend’s series against the Twins didn’t matter to the 31,824 fans in attendance Friday night. And on Armed Forces night, they were treated to a special night on the field and around the ballpark.

“I still get goosebumps thinking about some of the stuff we saw,” Matheny said.

To start off the night, Mabel Johnson -- a 106-year-old World War II Coast Guard Veteran and Olathe, Kan., native -- threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Then, the Royals had a military salute and flyover with members of the military on the field for the national anthem.

And during the middle of the game, Private Braxton Barnes, who had been stationed in Germany for the past 18 months, came home to surprise his mom -- who was participating in a between-innings scoreboard game.

“I looked over during that and there were a lot of tears in the stands when we saw that,” Matheny said. “Going out of their way to celebrate something that allows us to have the freedom to do what we do. Stands were jammed, so much energy. We go down three, and it can deflate in a hurry. But it just seemed like people were happy to be there and happy to see us do our thing. Next thing you know, we score three and it lit up like a Christmas tree in Kauffman.”