Let the kids play paid off Saturday night
Manager Mike Matheny, as has been known lately, peppered his KC Royals roster with inexperience on Saturday night. Matheny started four rookies — MJ Melendez in left field, Bobby Witt Jr. at shortstop, DH Vinnie Pasquantino and Nick Pratto at the start — and near-rookies Kyle Isbel at right and Daniel Lynch on the mound. The relatively short time Isbel and Lynch spent with the club last season exhausted their rookie status.
Letting the kids play has paid off. Due almost entirely to what those inexperienced but eager Royals have been doing, Kansas City, struggling hard and successfully to stay out of the American League’s central basement, pressured by the Red Sox, who remain heavily involved in the hunt for American League wild card, 5-4 at Kauffman Stadium.
The youngsters made their presence known early in the game for the KC Royals.
Lynch set the tone in the first inning by retiring the Sox in order. Moments later, Melendez, batting leader for KC, gave Lynch and the Royals their first lead of the night when he hit Boston starter Nathan Eovaldi.
That early lead didn’t last long – Boston scored once in second – but the Royals reclaimed it after Lynch put the Sox in order in third. This time, rookie Witt provided the punch with a two-run single and one out that scored Isbel and Nicky Lopez to make it 3-1 Royals.
And this lead has not aged well. Lynch gave up a game-tying two-run homer to Bobby Dalbec in the very next period. Leave it to the Kansas City kids, though. Isbel homered in the bottom half of the inning to give his club a 4-3 lead.
But Lynch, after pulling the team out in the fifth, allowed Boston to come back. Alex Verdugo’s first homer in the sixth tied the game again.
Give Lynch his due, though. He struck out six in six innings, walked zero and kept KC in the game before Taylor Clarke, Scott Barlow and Dylan Coleman – still considered a rookie after pitching briefly for Kansas City last season — held the Sox scoreless in the Finals. three innings, Coleman retiring the Sox in the order in the ninth.
The heroic moment of a plummeting rookie was the difference maker for the KC Royals.
Sooner or later, the Royals had to promote Nick Pratto. He punished Double-A and Triple-A pitchers in 2021 by hitting .265/.385/.602 and slamming 36 homers with 98 RBIs and, although his 2022 average was just .240 on 10 July, he still had 17 home runs and a .374 OBP in 74 games in Omaha.
The inevitable promotion came on July 11, not because Kansas City was willing to keep him in the majors, but rather because he was among the minor leaguers needed in Toronto after the unvaccinated status of 10 players left them. banned from Canada for a series with the Blue Jays. . Pratto went 4-for-14 (.286) and hit his first major league homer against the Jays, but ended up on the Omaha roster the day after the series ended.
Pratto returned to the Royals four days later, this time to replace Edward Olivares after the outfielder landed on the injured list. Unlike his impressive effort in Toronto, however, Pratto hasn’t hit well — entering Saturday’s game he was 6 for 38 (.158) with 17 strikeouts since his recall.
And he had whipped twice and was hitless in three at bats before coming home with two outs and the game tied in the bottom of the ninth. He pushed Boston’s Garrett Whitlock to 3-2…and then it happened:
So 20 days after hitting that first major league home run in Toronto, Pratto beat the Red Sox with his second, a blast that gave the Royals a 2-1 series advantage heading into today’s Finals. today.
That one of the youngsters the club seem keen to stick with and test for the rest of the season delivered the decisive blow was fitting. Three of these young players, Melendez, Witt and Isbel, provided four points without which Pratto’s heroism would not have been possible. A fourth, Lynch, kept KC in the game with six decent innings. And a fifth, Coleman, stopped the Red Sox in their batting final.
Thank the children for this victory.
Kansas City and Boston wrap up their series with just one game at 1:10 p.m. today.