Offense has life, pitching resilient in DH split

May 9th, 2022

BALTIMORE -- After three days away from baseball because of rain, the Royals returned with a doubleheader split against the Orioles on Sunday at Camden Yards.

Shortly after winning 6-4 in Game 1, the Royals couldn’t find the same production in Game 2’s 4-2 loss.

Kansas City (9-16) is still searching for successful consistency on the field, now that it's finally staring at a stretch of games -- 19 scheduled games in 17 days -- in the schedule without interruption.

“We were missing it,” catcher Salvador Perez said. “First time we’ve gotten three off days in a row in the season. I wanted to catch both games today.”

Here are three takeaways from the Royals’ doubleheader split:

1. Signs of life for KC's offense

The Royals didn’t light the world on fire offensively on Sunday, but they took advantage of opportunities the Orioles gave them in Game 1. And that’s what they’re going to have to do while mired in an offensive slump that has them tied for last in baseball with 78 runs scored this season while also playing the least amount of games (25).

Three of the six runs they scored in Game 1 were unearned, including the go-ahead run in the ninth inning, when Nicky Lopez reached first on a fielding error and went to third on an errant pickoff attempt. 

Michael A. Taylor -- who wasn’t supposed to play in Game 1 but entered when Edward Olivares exited with a right quad strain -- delivered a batter later, lining a single into left field.

“We’ve talked about scratching and clawing, and that’s what that is,” said Mike Matheny, who earned his 700th managerial win during Game 1. “Figuring out ways to put pressure on the defense. That’s taking aggressive leads, and causing them to have to do something. Every time you’re asking them to make a play, there are odds that something could go wrong there and go in your favor.

“That’s how we’re going to have to do this: Next man up. It can start at any point in the lineup.”

2. Salvy gets going at the plate

What else has to happen for the Royals to break out offensively? Their dangerous hitters have to become dangerous again. That includes Perez, who was mired in a 0-for-26 slump before his single in the eighth inning of Game 1 on Sunday.

The veteran catcher knocked four hits and one RBI across both games after entering Sunday just 2-for-38 with 17 strikeouts in his last nine games. He acknowledged the pressure he puts on himself to carry the offense, especially coming off his historic 2021 season in which he hit 48 homers and drove in 121 runs.

Having the past few days in the cages allowed him to make adjustments with his swing.

“I think it’s staying more on my lower side, not try to swing at bad pitches,” Perez said. “I’m super aggressive, but I’ve started to know my game a little bit. Take what the other team gives me. If they give a walk, walk. If they give me a base hit the other way, just take it. I’m not going to hit a grand slam every day or every at-bat. Sometimes I try to do something that I don’t have control over. I just have to do my part.”

There’s no doubt Perez is a big piece of the Royals’ offense, the main thump in the middle of the lineup. When he’s producing, the offense is in a better place.

“To see Salvy get going, I know that he puts so much pressure on himself,” Matheny said. “He feels like he’s responsible for carrying this whole offense, which isn’t the case. He takes a lot of pride coming up in those big situations. He’s starting to do that.”

3. Lynch learns from first inning

The Game 1 victory backed Zack Greinke’s start, although the right-hander is still looking for his first win as a Royal since 2010. He delivered 5 2/3 innings Sunday afternoon, and while the Orioles knocked him around for 10 hits, he limited the damage to two runs.

Daniel Lynch hoped to follow Greinke’s lead, but unlucky breaks in the first led to a shorter start, as he allowed three runs (two earned) over 3 2/3 innings with four walks and five strikeouts. All three of those runs came in the first inning, when Lynch allowed back-to-back singles and a walk. Rookie catcher MJ Melendez’s passed ball led to runners in scoring position, which the Orioles capitalized on with a sacrifice fly.

“[Greinke] pitches a lot differently than I do, but I do think it tells you -- he gave up seven hits in the first three innings and gave up one run, so the singles, if you can manage them and keep attacking, a bunch of singles aren’t going to hurt you,” Lynch said. “I felt like the majority of [my outing] was baseball, and stuff like that happens.”