I was ready to turn this game off after the second inning. Glenn Sparkman just got ejected, and newly minted reliever Jorge Lopez looked like old starter Jorge Lopez, as the White Sox tagged the Royals staff for 5 runs in the second. As usual in 2019, it looked like the Royals were going to be on the wrong side of a laugher, further salt in the wound in a possible sweep at the hands of a division foe like the White Sox.
And then…the Royals did what they have seemed to do on occasion this year…they surprised…in both good and bad.
The Good Surprises
It was nice to see Soler strike back after a pretty quiet series thus far. Soler went 2 for 5 with 3 RBI, including a two-run home run off of starter Reynaldo Lopez that gave the Royals some life in the 6th. Soler currently leads the team with 13 home runs (he could have had 14 if not for this catch), and Royals Review had this to say about his current pace for the year:
Soler has struggled to stay healthy over his career, and his overly-aggressive approach at the plate can sometimes get him into trouble (his game-ending flyout was a classic case of him over-swinging early in the count in an high-leverage situation). But it seems with Nicky Lopez up, Whit Merrifield will be primarily in right field, which means Soler will be the primary DH (as he should, even when Lucas Duda comes back from injury). Without having to play the field everyday, the Royals will have better luck in preserving Soler’s health this season which in turn, will produce more of this…
Things didn’t look good for Jorge Lopez early on. With news of him being demoted to the bullpen, Lopez was thrown into the limelight quickly with two runners on in a one-run game after newly minted starter Glenn Sparkman was ejected for hitting Tim Anderson in the second inning…
Unfortunately, Lopez didn’t shine early on: he gave up a single to Yolmer Sanchez to bring in a run, and Charlie Tilson followed that up with a fielder’s choice that brought in Anderson (the hit batter). And then, Jose Abreu got to the plate and…
At this point, it was easy for Royals fans to give up on not just the game, but Lopez in general. But despite the early setbacks, Lopez kept the Royals in the game, as the White Sox failed to score until the 8th inning (more on that to come). Lopez ended up throwing five innings, gave up only five hits, walked one and struck out eight, an impressive performance in relief despite that rough second.
The other Lopez, infielder Nicky, also had a bounce back game, as he had failed to get a hit in the series entering today’s game, despite this being a homecoming for him (he’s from Naperville, Illinois). It seemed like his family watching his big league debut had an effect in games 1 and 2, as Lopez looked tight in both the field and at the plate. But, Lopez came through when the Royals needed, as he not only got two hits in the game (with a big triple that got his mom fired up), but also came up with a clutch hit that tied the game up at 7 in the Top of the 8th.
While his parents getting to see his big league debut in his hometown was a nice event, it will be nice for Lopez to get out of Chicago and just focus on playing ball without the worry of hometown or family expectations. Thankfully, his nice end to the series should give him a nice boost as the Royals head down to Texas for a four-game weekend series with the Rangers.
The Bad Surprises
Kennedy is posting great numbers as a reliever. His fastball velocity is up, his K/9 is up, and his K/BB ratio is up as well. But…for the second straight game, Kennedy fails to come through in the clutch. After blowing a three-run game against the Yankees in the rubber game of their last home stand (they ended up winning thankfully), Kennedy was unable to preserve a tie game, as he gave up back to back doubles, including this game winning one to Tim Anderson, who has now become the Royals’ arch-nemesis (more on that later).
At this point, it seems like Kennedy isn’t fit for the closer role in Kansas City, which still remains open as of this moment. And that makes Kennedy and his $16 million-plus per year contact (with 1 more year to go after this season) hard to stomach. Kennedy doesn’t fit in anywhere. He can’t start. He can’t pitch in high leverage relief situations. He basically can do middle relief when the Royals are either down a lot or up a lot (and it’s been more of the former), and that shouldn’t be worth almost $33 million over 2 more seasons. Those roles are reserved for journeymen relievers who are making the league minimum around $1-3 million per year…at best.
I am not sure if Kennedy’s contract is the worst in Royals history…but if he continues at this rate, it may end up earning that honor by the end of 2020.
#StickTalk is Tim Anderson’s phrase, and he lets everyone on the field know about it as well, as evidenced by his kicks.
Now, Anderson, the White Sox, and South Side fans have every reason to brag: they flat out beat the Royals this series. Going into the series, I felt that the Royals could at least take two out of three due to the White Sox’s strikeout issues at the plate, and injuries gutting their staff (losing Carlos Rodon was a killer). In terms of run differential, the Royals were actually better going into this series. I felt that game 2 against Lucas Giolito would be a challenge, but Reynaldo Lopez was vulnerable in game 3, and they had a good shot against Ivan Nova, who basically is an older Lopez, in game 1. Unfortunately, rain jacked with game 1 (in which Homer Bailey was pitching well until it poured), Giolito lived up to the hype in game 2, and in game 3, the Royals just couldn’t get over the bad second inning despite out-hitting the White Sox 15-10.
And that’s how you get swept by a club that’s not much better than you. Of course, do not tell the White Sox faithful that, as they are puffing their chest out like they just won AL Pennant after this sweep.
Speaking of puffing out chests by the way…
I actually like Anderson for the most part. I think his hitting approach is unsustainable (low walkout, high strikeout guys fall back to earth at some point). I felt that Royals did him wrong when they threw at him after his bat flip. Anderson brings personality to a game that is in dire need of stars with swagger, something the league pales at in comparison to the NBA or NFL.
(Side note: I do think stars from Latin America bring that personality and star power to the game of baseball, but they don't get enough love from general sports fans and media because they are not from America and they don't speak fluent English, which I think is bullshit, especially as our Latinx population only grows in this country; way to go, Trump America for being jerks.)
That being said, as a Royals fan, Anderson can shove it here. Sparkman didn’t throw at him on purpose, and if he did, it wouldn’t be a changeup on a 1-0 count in a 1-run game early on. This “beef” is something Anderson is blowing up in order to gloat after a sweep as well as rev up the local media and fanbase. He has every right to do so: he did have the winning hit and they did sweep. However, I don’t think the Royals organization has a vendetta against Anderson, and I feel the umpiring staff throwing Sparkman out was an overreaction stemming from them reading too much into the Royals-Anderson situation going into the series.
Again, the White Sox can gloat all they want. But the Royals get the White Sox at the K next weekend.
All I can say is Royals fans better boo the shit out of Anderson each and every at-bat.