'Best game we've played': Young bats shine

May 4th, 2023

KANSAS CITY -- With the exception of at 32 years old, every hitter in the Royals’ lineup the past two days has been 27 years or younger.

And on Wednesday, all 13 hits and all six runs in the Royals’ 6-0 win over the Orioles at Kauffman Stadium came from players 26 years or younger.

“It came from up and down the lineup in all different forms,” manager Matt Quatraro said. “It was clearly the best game we’ve played all around.”

Backed by strong defense, the Royals’ pitching staff authored their first shutout of the year. needed just 44 pitches in five innings, prompting a curious move from Quatraro to pull the veteran right-hander after five scoreless innings. Quatraro said the decision was about Greinke’s health, the Orioles turning over their lineup for the third time and the bullpen matchups for the next four innings. Greinke, in a roundabout way, said he understood the decision.

“Just try to win games,” Greinke said after earning his first win of the ‘23 season. “Bullpen’s been pitching great. Starters haven’t been doing as good. Just got to pitch better if you want to pitch more.”

Quatraro’s bullpen plan went as scripted as , , -- who pitched on his 31st birthday and was surprised with a cake and milkshakes from his teammates after the game -- and combined for four scoreless innings. It was the Royals’ second win at home, exactly one month after their first win at The K.

But the takeaway from Wednesday was the offense. It has been a slow start for the Royals’ young hitters this season, but they’ve scored 13 runs in the past two games.

“The process we put in place going back four years ago is all about approach and sticking to that plan and approach,” general manager J.J. Picollo said Tuesday when asked what went wrong offensively in the first month. “When you break down these at-bats, guys are getting out of the approach. I don’t think it’s a process issue. I think it’s more of an execution issue right now. Guys just have to calm down.

“I think we’ve got to focus on our process and what we’re committed to, what we’ve been committed to, and that’s playing a lot of inexperienced players. … This group we have, we’re going to stick with them a long time.”

The Royals showed why on Wednesday. They didn’t strike out once and got production from up and down the lineup. , the Royals’ most consistent hitter this season, went 3-for-4 with two doubles and a home run, retaking the team lead with his sixth of the year. The 26-year-old set career highs in both RBIs (three) and extra-base hits (three). Pasquantino smoked a cutter up in the zone from O’s starter Kyle Gibson for his home run, a changeup down for his first double, and when Baltimore brought in lefty Keegan Akin to face Pasquantino in the seventh, he sliced a slider to right field.

“I really think he just sees the ball,” Quatraro said. “He’s not thinking right or lefty, not thinking sinker or four-seamer. He has a plan, he knows what they have. … But I don’t think he worries about what they’re doing as much as him controlling what he does.”

, 25, knocked two hits, as well as 26-year-old , who took a foul ball off his face during his at-bat in the seventh before ripping a double into left field. He scored on 22-year-old ’s triple as part of a four-run seventh inning.

, 23, put together four good at-bats on Wednesday and drove in a run in the seventh on a sacrifice fly. , 24, went 3-for-4 and is batting .500 since he was called up over the weekend.

“We were swinging at really good pitches,” Pratto said. “That was the name of the game. We weren’t expanding the zone. We were hunting certain things. Each guy has a plan up there. Every guy has their own set day of work. Today was a good point of seeing how much these guys prepare.”

Wednesday’s offense is why the Royals feel optimistic about their future with the hitters they have in the Majors right now. Not every game will be like Wednesday. But it was a start.

“It’s just one game, though,” Pasquantino said. “Anything can happen in one game. So it’s not about tonight, but it’s about what we do moving forward.”