The Royals defeated Pittsburgh 7-3 Monday to start their six-game homestand with a win.
BIG PICTURE: The win moves the Royals back to .500 at 26-26. They are now six games behind the Chicago White Sox in the American League Central and 2 1/2 games behind Cleveland and Houston for a Wild Card spot.
NOTES: RHP Carlos Hernandez was optioned to Triple-A Omaha. OF Edward Olivares was recalled from Triple-A Omaha because of the hamstring injury Jorge Soler had Saturday.
FRUSTRATING FIRST FOR BOTH TEAMS… Two plays in the first innings led to runs, one for each team, and both were frustrating for the defense.
For the Royals, the frustration was Carlos Santana’s inability to control a ball put in play with the infield pulled in and a runner on third. The Pirates put pressure on Santana by running on contact. The frustration was that the Royals got exactly what they wanted, and a cleanly played ball gets the out at home. But that’s a physical frustration, and those are going to happen. You aren’t going to be upset with that. You’re just frustrated. And Santana is more frustrated than anyone about it.
The Pirates, on the other hand, allowed a mental mistake to beat them for a run in the bottom of the first to tie the game. Whit Merrifield reached third with no outs thanks to a double and a wild pitch. Chad Kuhl struck out the next two batters. He then had Salvador Perez at 2-2. Kuhl struggled to locate the fastball in the first inning and was getting Perez to swing at sliders down and away. So at 2-2, Kuhl decided to throw a two-seam fastball up in the zone instead of another slider. The slider probably would have struck out Perez. Instead, Perez was bailed out and singled up the middle to score Whit and tie the game.
Small mistakes, both mental and physical, play a large role in determining who wins a baseball game. Neither of these teams can afford to allow runs because of mental mistakes. The Pirates did that in the first inning.
DOZIER DOUBLES ON MISTAKE… Hunter Dozier seems to want to pull everything right now. Chad Kuhl was ahead of him at 2-2. He got Dozier to swing and miss at a couple of fastballs on the outside edge of the strike zone when Dozier was looking to pull the ball. Kuhl then tried to throw a slider down and away to strike out Dozier but left it up, and Dozier was able to double to left field. Kuhl made a mistake that ended up helping Dozier a lot with the way Dozier is swinging right now. But give Dozier credit. He didn’t miss the mistake. The double gave the Royals a 2-1 lead.
TAYLOR IS WHAT WE THOUGHT HE WAS… Michael Taylor got everyone excited in the first week of the season. I talked before the season about why Taylor was signed. It had nothing to do with offense. It was all about defense. It was about running down fly balls in center field in Kauffman Stadium. After a week, Taylor had people excited about his offense. Since then, he has come back down to earth and has become the player we expected. He has been moved back down to ninth in the batting order. He’s all about defense. He had a nice double in the eighth to increase the Royals’ lead to 7-3. His occasional offensive success is nice, but don’t start to rely on it.
BOB KENDRICK TALKS NEGRO LEAGUES… Bob Kendrick talked about Negro League stars who fought for the United States. The stories are fascinating. Kendrick hosts a podcast called Black Diamonds about the history of the Negro Leagues. If you haven’t listened to that podcast, you might want to give it a try. I have heard the first three episodes, and they are really interesting. Kendrick is excellent.
OLIVARES IS ON FIRE… Edward Olivares was acquired last year in a trade with San Diego for Trevor Rosenthal. When he came over to the Royals, he played pretty well right away before cooling off. He started this season in the minor leagues but was recently called up when Jorge Soler injured his hamstring the other day. Monday night, he reached base twice and made a diving catch in right field. Nice start to his major league season.
DELAYED STEAL PRACTICE… The Royals saw something with Pittsburgh that made them think that they were susceptible to the delayed steal. They tried it multiple times in this game. They were successful once and were thrown out once.
MONDESI CLARIFICATION… Let me make sure I am clear about my thoughts on Adalberto Mondesi. I think he can be terrific. I think he can be an MVP if he ever puts together a solid season. My concern is that he loses focus at times and also gets injured a lot. So, yes, I would still look to build his value and then trade him and turn over the shortstop position to Bobby Witt Jr. The Royals still have two more years of control of Mondesi, so there is no hurry to trade him. They can build up his value and not rush into anything. But when he has built up a good amount of value, the Royals need to pull the trigger on a trade.
Nicky Lopez pinch hit for Mondesi in the eighth inning. I haven’t heard yet why he did that.
LET’S TALK TYLER ZUBER… Tyler Zuber is having a rough season. He is having problems throwing strikes. He gets hit around when he does throw strikes. But Tyler Zuber is a heck of a pitcher with a lot of talent. He is just struggling right now. I’m a big fan. I think I have more confidence in his stuff than he does. When he starts having success and starts building confidence, Tyler Zuber will be thought of like Josh Staumont, Scott Barlow, and Kyle Zimmer. Trust me.
NEXT UP: Brady Singer takes the mound on Tuesday for the Royals as they go for the sweep of the two-game series.
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