KCR

Series beginning
04/22/2022

Kansas City Royals

The Royals roll into town after taking two of three from what is widely considered to be a vastly superior Minnesota Twins club. And the one they lost they dropped 1-0. Kansas City bested the Twins with excellent pitching, particularly from their relief corps, which did not allow a run in 1213 innings over the course of the series. With pitcher Zack Greinke back in west Missouri to lead the young starting rotation and catcher/DH Salvador Pérez leading an experienced lineup, the Royals are on the way up. That said, KC hasn't produced much in the way of offense thus far in the young season. Though Pérez has four homers and left-fielder Andrew Benintendi has been getting on base at a .400+ clip, the Royals are 13th among the 15 American League teams in batting average and 15th in OBP. They're also worst in both batter walks and strikeouts. They seem kind of like the 2021 Mariners, come to think of it—not hitting a lick and yet outperforming expectations with pitching.

The Royals' lineup is certainly capable and doesn't figure to continue with its present level of futility. In addition to Pérez and Benintendi, proven veterans Carlos Santana and Whit Merrifield have support from the historically competent bats of Michael A. Taylor and Hunter Dozier alongside young infielder Nicky López and a new kid a lot is expected from—rookie third baseman Bobby Witt Jr. Son of longtime Texas Rangers pitcher Bobby Witt, Witt Junior was drafted second overall in 2019 and finds himself in the big leagues after splitting 2021 between the Double-A and Triple-A levels (hitting well at both stops). Like fellow rookie phenom Julio Rodríguez, Witt Jr. has looked a bit overmatched in the early weeks, managing just six hits thus far and striking out 13 times (30% K rate). It may take Witt a year or two to find his way, but Merrifield, Santana, and the others are bound to turn things around sooner or later; let's just hope they wait until at least next week.

On the mound, the Mariners will miss Greinke's turn in this series, with starters Brad Keller, Kris Bubic, and Carlos Hernández scheduled to go for KC. Keller had a nice mini-season in 2020, but was less than good in ’21; in two starts this season he'd been solid, giving up just two runs in 13 frames vs. Cleveland and Detroit. Bubic strikes out his fair share of batters but was otherwise rather ordinary in his rookie year of ’21, and was bounced in the first inning of his debut start of this season; he made it into the 5th in his next start, getting a no-decision vs. the Tigers. Sophomore right-hander Hernández had a decent 2021—6-2, 3.68 ERA, 74 Ks—but hasn't impressed yet in ’22, logging 823 innings in two starts and serving up 7 runs on 14 hits. It's the bullpen that's gotten the job done, though with relievers the sample sizes are still very small; Josh Staumont has seen the most action and been scored upon in just one of his seven outings, while Scott Barlow, Dylan Coleman, and Taylor Clarke have also gotten the late-game innings and have each allowed less than one baserunner per IP.

Tasked with scoring early and often will be a Seattle lineup that just torched horrid Texas pitching. In the just-completed three-game set between the Mariners and Rangers, the M's scored an average of 7.7 runs per game and reached base at a .379 clip (the problem was they also left 25 runners aboard). Tasked with keeping the Royals' bats cold will be starting pitchers Chris Flexen, Matt Brash, and Robbie Ray. Flex has only one game under his belt against Kansas City, a 523 inning, one-run effort last season. Rookie Brash has, of course, never faced the Royals; and Ray, having spent most of his career in the National League, has had just two starts vs. KC, a no-decision in 2017 and five shutout frames last year.

Splits

Last ten 4-6
Away 0-1
vs. LHP 0-1
vs. RHP 5-5
One-run games 2-3
vs. AL West 0-0
vs. Mariners 0-0

Who’s Hot & Not

Last 10 games

Nicky López
.313/.357/.375, 2 2B

Andrew Benintendi
.371/.436/.514, 3 RBI

Carlos Santana
.069/.206/.103, 4 Ks

Bobby Witt Jr.
.135/.180/.243, 13 Ks

Whit Merrifield
.125/.167/.150, 2 Ks

Last 3 series vs. Seattle

9/19/21 SEA 7, KC 1
9/18/21 KC 8, SEA 1
9/17/21 SEA 6, KC 2
8/29/21 SEA 4, KC 3
8/28/21 KC 4, SEA 2
8/27/21 KC 8, SEA 7
8/26/21 KC 6, SEA 4
6/19/19 SEA , KC 2
6/18/19 KC 9, SEA 0
6/17/19 KC 6, SEA 4

Manager

matheny

Mike Matheny: A longtime big-league catcher, Matheny was a standout defender on several postseason clubs until retiring out of health concerns after suffering a series of concussions behind the plate. He began his managerial career cold, having no previous professional managing or coaching experience, yet led his Cardinals to four consecutive playoff berths; the Cards fired him in the middle of the 2018 season despite his great success in St. Louis (overall .560 winning percentage) because of alleged personal conflicts in the clubhouse and altercations with the media. To his credit, Matheny owned up to his shortcomings in St. Louis and has tried to learn from his mistakes. "I came in completely over my skis," he said of his first managerial gig, "everybody knew that. I was unprepared and I was untrained." Now in his third year at the helm of the Royals, Matheny seems to have better relationships with his players than he did at the end of his Cardinals tenure and is a new convert to the more analytics-based school of managing. 

Familiar Face

santanaKC

Carlos Santana: OK, this is kind of cheating, as Santana never actually suited up for the Mariners. He was on the team, though, very briefly, during the 2018-19 offseason. A member of the Philadelphia Phillies in ’18, the veteran fist baseman was part of the trade that brought J.P. Crawford to Seattle, included as a salary dump when infielder Jean Segura and pitchers Juan Nicasio and James Pazos went the other way. Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto kept Santana for a week and a half, flipping him to Cleveland for Edwin Encarnación in a complex three-team deal that also involved the Rays.

Other than Santana, there are no former Mariners on KC's roster, though there is a coach. John Mabry played for Seattle in 2000, serving as a poor third baseman, mediocre outfielder, and blowout pitcher (23 IP in a 14-4 drubbing at the hands of the Rays) for Lou Piniella before being traded to San Diego for equally mediocre outfielder Al Martin, then came back to the M's as a free agent in 2003, when he had a pretty terrible year (.212/.328/.356). Since retiring as a player, Mabry has coached under Matheny for both the Cardinals and Royals; in St. Louis he was a hitting coach, but in Kansas City he has no designated area of focus, he is simply "Major League coach," functioning as a second bench coach for Matheny.

Franchise History

Kansas City Royals(1969 - present)
 
World Champions:1985, 2015
League Champions:1980, 2014
Division Titles:1976, 1977, 1978, 1981 (split-season), 1984, 2015

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