The Royals’ 8-4 win over the Blue Jays isn’t that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things.
After all, the Royals are 18-37 after Wednesday’s game, and they are still 13 games behind the first-place Minnesota Twins. They have a 0.1 percent of making the postseason, even after today’s victory, and they are still five games behind the second-to-last place Detroit Tigers.
It was a much-needed win for the Royals, who were outscored in the first two games of the Blue Jays series 15-0. The Royals’ eight runs were also the most runs scored by the club at Kauffman Stadium this season, as Josh Vernier mentioned on Twitter during the Royals’ postgame show.
In addition, it was a much-needed boost for a Royals fanbase that has been quite beaten down over the past couple of weeks.
Though it was only one win and just a crowd of 12,000 on a Wednesday afternoon game, it was an energetic Royals crowd that definitely felt louder and more engaged than some of the other crowds I have seen in person at Kauffman so far this season.
Eight runs, including three runs in the first inning, can do that for a reeling ballclub and fanbase in need of a jolt.
So, with the Royals getting a big win, what can Royals fans take away from this game in relation to not just the remainder of this homestand (they finish up with four games against the Baltimore Orioles), but perhaps the remainder of the season as well?
Carlos Santana May Be Turning It Around (Which Helps His Trade Value)
Santana earned a second-straight start, which was mostly due to Hunter Dozier being out due to a possible injury, as Anne Rogers mentioned on Twitter before the game.
There doesn’t seem to be a timetable for Dozier’s return, and considering Dozier’s injury history, it is possible that an IL stint may be imminent for the Royals’ utility slugger.
As a result of this latest (but not surprising) development, it’s likely that Santana will probably merit more playing time in the coming days. That isn’t exactly encouraging for Royals fans who are chomping at the bit for Vinnie Pasquantino’s MLB debut.
(It also doesn’t help that Pasquantino hit home run number 16 tonight, which only turns up the heat on Dayton Moore and JJ Picollo).
While Pasquantino-fever is taking over the Royals fanbase, Santana had his best game of the season at the plate, and maybe the best game of his Royals career. The 36-year-old first baseman went 4-for-4 at the plate, which also included two RBI, two doubles, a walk, and a run scored.
Just for context, Santana’s +9.7 WPA was the third-best overall mark in the game, behind only Bobby Witt, Jr. and Toronto reliever Trent Thornton.
Santana saw a huge jump in his overall numbers after his huge afternoon.
After his performance on June 5th against the Houston Astros, Santana had an average of .157 and an OPS of .535. After his outburst against the Blue Jays? His average jumped to .188 and his OPS to .611.
Just being there at the game today, Santana looked as locked in at the plate as he ever has as a member of the Royals. That approach could be a sign that more outings like this could be in store in the near future.
Sam McDowell, a columnist for the KC Star, also noted Santana’s strong performance over the past 14 games, and how that should be a talking point with other general managers around the league to foster a possible trade (though of course, he was being a little facetious).
It’s going to be difficult for Moore and Picollo to generate any kind of trade buzz on Santana over the next couple of months, especially with Pasquantino ready to make his debut soon. However, the Royals were saying the same thing about Jorge Soler a season ago, and a hot couple of weeks ended up resulting in a trade with Atlanta, which opened up playing time for Kyle Isbel.
Let’s hope that Santana is starting a similar hot streak, which can open up a spot at first base for Pasquantino in the next few weeks.
Brady Singer is Making His Adjustment (Though Changeup Usage is a Concern)
On the surface level, Singer’s line wasn’t all that impressive. He went five innings and allowed three runs on eight hits, which inflated his ERA to 4.33 for the season in 35.1 IP.
That being said, Singer was able to work through his inconsistent day to earn a victory, which has been hard to come by for the Royals’ starting pitchers this season. He also didn’t allow a walk against the Blue Jays, and also struck out five batters to boot.
What was interesting about Singer’s start was that he excelled in generating strikes, despite not having his usual velocity, as evidenced by his player breakdown data from Baseball Savant.
Notice that his sinker and slider velocity were both down against the Jays on Wednesday afternoon. And yet, he produced 27 percent and 41 percent CSW rates on those two pitches, respectively. That demonstrates Singer is making the proper adjustment against MLB hitters, which is promising considering his inconsistency in 2021.
One area of concern is that Singer only threw his changeup six times, which constituted roughly six percent of his pitches against the Jays.
Singer has seen some success in his return to Kansas City from Triple-A Omaha primarily due to the increased usage of his changeup. The decline in percentage is something to be curious and maybe worried about from a Royals fan’s perspective.
Notice in the chart below that after a massive spike in changeup usage on May 15th (when he returned to the Royals rotation), he has seen a sharp decline in usage of the pitch.
Now, the uptick is counting his last start on June 3rd, which saw him use the pitch 9.7 percent of the time. Thus, Singer used the changeup three percent less in comparison to his previous start, which makes today’s start his lowest usage of the pitch since returning from his short stint in Omaha.
It will be interesting to see if the low usage of the changeup was just a one-time deal, or if Singer is feeling less comfortable with the pitch as opposing hitters and teams gain a better scouting report on him.
And that, unfortunately, could lead to some regression and possible struggles in future starts.
Matheny May Be Safe for Now (But His Seat is Still Warm)
Nobody was more relieved after Wednesday’s win than manager Mike Matheny, who shared a lot with the press after the win, as chronicled by Alec Lewis of The Athletic.
Here’s a segment from Lewis’ piece that illustrates Matheny’s mindset after a much-needed win during a tough stretch of Royals baseball the past few weeks.
He acknowledged the importance of intentionality as far as reacting positively to victories.
“I know those guys need that,” Matheny said. “I don’t want them to fall into what I’ve fallen into. Enjoy the wins. These are hard to come by. And that’s how, I believe, you continue to see them. You’ve got to celebrate them. They’ve got to be special. Every one of them is.”“Royals’ Mike Matheny offers reminder to struggling team: ‘Don’t forget to smile’” by Alec Lewis; The Athletic
I’m not sure there is a manager who is facing as much heat as Matheny, especially in the wake of the Joe Girardi (Phillies) and Joe Maddon (Angels) firings.
After all, Matheny is managing the worst club in baseball currently and hasn’t been anywhere close to playoff contention in his three-year tenure as Royals manager. One could argue that Girardi and Maddon were fired for a lot less (though to be fair, Matheny didn’t have clubs as flush with talent as the Phillies and Angels).
I am not saying one game has saved Matheny’s job as manager of the Royals.
His seat is still warm, and there is a real possibility that Matheny could be let go by the season’s end, especially if this club hits the 100-loss mark. If it gets to that point, it will be either Moore and/or Picollo or Matheny who will need to take the fall for such a poor season. Usually, in those cases, the manager (and also the coaching staff as a whole) is the one to take it.
However, it seems hard to imagine a mid-season firing now. A loss today would have been the most likely time to do it, especially after two incredibly rough shutout losses on Monday and Tuesday where the Royals dugout looked absolutely lifeless.
But to Matheny-haters’ dismay, the Royals won and built up some much-needed momentum for a very winnable four-game series against a last-place Orioles team. It will have to be an incredibly terrible stretch of play for the Royals to part ways with their manager before the end of the season.
Whether that’s a good or bad thing for this Royals club depends on the Royals fan.