As many of you who follow this blog know, I am a partial Royals season ticket holder. In 2022, I attended 26 games at Kauffman Stadium, the most I have attended in a single season since moving to Kansas City in 2013.
While the Royals went 65-97 a year ago, I actually had some surprising success in games I attended in person. The Royals had a record of 20-6 in games that I went to at the K last season.
Since it will be 2023 in a few days, I figured I would look back on my past season as a season ticket holder, and identify the five best games I attended in 2022. Of course, this wasn’t an easy decision, as there were many games worth remembering, even in a down season like last year.
Here are a few honorable mentions that just missed the cut:
- Royals 4-Rays 2, July 24th: Bobby Witt, Jr. was pulled from the game due to a minor injury (and I think his season was never the same on a power end since this incident). However, Kris Bubic had one of his best starts of the season, and the Royals clinched a home series win over a playoff team in Tampa Bay.
- Royals 2-Twins 0, April 20th: Daniel Lynch pitched five innings of shutout ball, and the Royals bullpen silenced Minnesota over four innings of relief during a wet, April evening game. The win over a division rival gave Royals fans hope that better days were ahead in 2022 (proved wrong though).
- Royals 7-Orioles 5, June 9th: Royals pulled away in an exciting back-and-forth offensive affair that saw home runs from MJ Melendez and Carlos Santana, and two stolen bases by Witt. Also “Pride Night” was well done by the Royals organization.
- Royals 8-Blue Jays 4, June 8th: First game I attended after going to the funeral of my cousin back in California, so it had sentimental value to me. Santana also went four-for-four and began his heater which eventually helped him get traded to the Mariners.
- Royals 3-Athletics 1, June 24th: My first “Big Slick” softball game. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to the hype, though it was fun to see some of the celebrities at the K. Game was a relatively calm affair between two rebuilding teams. Edward Olivares did hit two home runs, and Greinke threw six innings of shutout ball to earn his first win at the K in 2022, which is crazy to think about in retrospect it came that late in the year.
- Royals 2-Guardians 1, April 9th: The toughest to leave off this list, but feel like it was the least memorable of the Guardians wins I witnessed, and didn’t want the Top 5 to be too Cleveland-heavy. Witt saved the game in extras with an incredible play at third, and Mondesi won the game with a single that was certainly the best highlight of his short season.
With those being out of the way, let’s take a more thorough look at the five best Royals games I saw in person at Kauffman last season.
5. August 24th: Singer Outduels Arizona’s Gallen
At first glance, it doesn’t seem like this should’ve been a great matchup. The Royals were 50-75 at the time and the Diamondbacks were 56-66. Both teams had been out of the playoff hunt for a while and were clearly in rebuilding mode, though Arizona seemed a little more ahead in their process.
However, I was excited for the game mainly due to the fact that it featured an incredible pitching matchup between Brady Singer, who suddenly became the Royals’ “ace” in 2022, and Zac Gallen, who had become one of the better pitchers in baseball over the course of last year.
The matchup didn’t disappoint. Singer went seven innings and allowed four hits and one run while walking none and striking out six (his lone earned run came on a Daulton Varsho HR). His sinker was working for him all night, as evidenced by this nasty strikeout of Ketel Marte in the first inning:
As for Gallen, he only went six innings and allowed three walks, but he struck out six, allowed only three hits, and shut out the Royals on the scoreboard before being pulled.
Like many Royals games this year, nearly all of the Royals runs came in a single inning, as they scored five runs in the 7th off of Arizona relievers Noe Ramirez and Joe Mantiply. That included a three-run blast by Witt that pretty much sealed the game for the Royals.
Scott Barlow made things interesting in the ninth, as Christian Walker absolutely crushed one over the deep centerfield fence into the Pepsi Porch buffet area. Despite the drama though, the Royals were able to hold onto the victory for their 51st victory of the year.
4. September 7th: “Four More Balls!”
This game was actually a pretty infuriating one for roughly eight innings. Greinke had a pretty “2022-Esque” start by allowing only one run on six hits while walking one and striking out two. On the flip side though, the Royals’ offense was pretty punch-less against Cleveland starter Cody Morris, who only went four innings, and the cadre of relievers who followed.
Going into the ninth, I thought that this was going to be another frustrating loss to the Guardians, but that changed when Emmanuel Clase came to the mound.
After dominating teams most of the year, Clase struggled to find his control against the Royals, as he walked two straight batters to begin the bottom of the ninth. What made the walks even more memorable though was the fact that the Royals fans began counting down the balls to a walk for each batter (for example: yelling “three more balls!” on a 1-0 count).
Give Royals fans credit…they knew the Royals weren’t going to hit their way to a win in this one. Might as well get in the Cleveland closer’s head. And it worked, as Clase threw roughly 10 straight balls before a mound visit.
Remember, Clase was one of the best closers, if not the best in 2022. And what he was most known for was his pinpoint command, as Anne Rogers pointed out that night:
The most controversial moment in the game came after Melendez singled in the game-tying run, and manager Terry Francona opted to intentionally walk Witt to get to Salvy. With one out, I get it: it is easier to turn a double play against Salvy than the speedy Witt.
As expected though, Salvy made the Guardians pay for the decision:
Lesson learned by Cleveland: don’t put Salvy in a walk-off situation again.
3. April 7th: Witt Has Opening Day to Remember
One of the biggest questions in Spring Training was whether or not Witt would earn a spot on the Opening Day roster. Baseball America rated him as the top prospect in all of baseball going into 2022, and the Royals had a hole at third base, with the only other options looking like Emmanuel Rivera and Hunter Dozier in Spring Training.
After a torrid Spring, Witt made the Opening Day roster, starting at third base on April 7th at Kauffman against the Guardians.
In what was a pitcher’s duel between Greinke and Cleveland’s Shane Bieber, Witt was able to help the Royals breakthrough in the bottom of the eighth, as he laced his first MLB hit, a double off of Cleveland’s Triston McKenzie (who somehow started in the bullpen for Cleveland at the beginning of the season):
Witt driving in Taylor for the winning run also proved to be Witt’s first MLB RBI, the first of many to come in 2022.
It’s hard to remember a player entering a season with as much hype as Witt going into last year.
And on Opening Day, he ended up coming through in a big way with a performance to remember in front of one of the largest crowds of the year at the K.
2. August 6th: Pratto Hits Walk Off Against Boston
Royals games against teams like the Yankees, Cardinals, and Red Sox are always interesting affairs, as those games attract more visiting fans than usual. Even though it was a down year for the Red Sox (they ended up finishing last in their division), there were still plenty of people in attendance that evening in Red Sox jerseys, shirts, and ball caps.
And usually, it’s never a cordial affair between those fans and the Kauffman faithful. Back in 2021, the lone fight I ever witnessed at the K was between University of Nebraska frat bros cheering for the Red Sox and a couple of blacked-out drunk Royals fans who took exception to his constant antagonizing of Royals fans. I wonder how his evening went later at Power and Light, which they said was their destination after they decided to leave their seats after the fight.
The game was a back-and-forth affair, highlighted early by home runs from Kansas City’s MJ Melendez and Kyle Isbel, and Boston’s Bobby Dalbec and Alex Verdugo. Daniel Lynch went six innings for the Royals and looked good at times with six strikeouts and no walks allowed. However, two home runs allowed, and four runs on seven hits ended up preventing him from getting the win.
It was a tie game in the bottom of the ninth when Nick Pratto came up, and at that point, it seemed like a done deal that this game would be going to extra innings. Boston reliever Garrett Whitlock had dominated the Royals for 2.2 innings at that point, not allowing a hit, and Pratto was 0-for-3 as well with two strikeouts to boot.
But baseball is a funny game, and one pitch can make all the difference:
The Kauffman crowd was absolutely electric after Pratto’s game-winner, which effectively shut up many Red Sox fans who were obnoxiously goading Royals fans around them after Kansas City blew the lead earlier in the game.
Surprisingly, this wasn’t the first time Pratto earned a walk-off on TV before, as Pratto also had a walk-off hit to win the Little League World Series against Japan back in 2011:
Let’s hope Pratto has more memorable moments in store for Royals fans in 2023 and beyond.
1. September 25th: The Home Finale Comeback
A tradition the past couple of years for my girlfriend and I has been to get tickets to the last home game of the year, and this past year we splurged a bit on Craft and Draft seats which was a fun experience (being able to stand up during a game in your seat and pace a bit is clutch).
At first, it appeared like it would be a rough way to end the season, as the Mariners got out to an 11-2 lead in the top of the sixth. For what ended up being Cal Eldred’s last home game as Royals pitching coach, we all figured it was a fitting end for him for the Royals pitching staff to get absolutely shellacked.
And then the bottom of the sixth inning happened.
Somehow, the Royals clawed to score 11 runs in the bottom of the sixth. Runs came in all forms. Michael Massey hit a home run. Jarred Kelenic and the Mariners outfield continued to lose balls in the Kansas City Sun. Edward Olivares roped balls off of Mariners infielders. And Ryan O’Hearn of all hitters came through with a double to plate the game-winning runs.
For context, this is what my scorecard looked like by the conclusion of the bottom of the sixth inning:
Any Royals comeback in the late innings is worth remembering.
But an 11-run one against an eventual playoff team?
Safe to say, that made the September 25th game at Kauffman Stadium my most memorable Royals game of the 2022 season.
The Royals saving the best for last I guess.
Photo Credit: Myself
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