In 2016, Royals left-hander Matt Strahm delivered a sensational debut, posting a 1.23 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 22 innings in the second half. In that context, his encore has thus far been baffling.
Strahm made his second appearance of the season on Wednesday, issuing a walk and allowing a three-run blast to Twins shortstop Eduardo Escobar in a 9-1 loss to the Twins at Target Field. The performance came two days after he surrendered four earned runs in Monday’s 7-1 loss. In two games, Strahm has allowed six earned runs in 2/3 of an inning across two appearances. He has also allowed one inherited runner to score.
“The command is way off right now,” Yost said. “He’s fighting his command. He’s behind in the count, And then, ‘OK, I got to make a pitch.’ Boom.”
On Wednesday, Strahm entered with one man on base in the seventh. He issued a four-pitch walk to Jason Castro, missing with four fastballs. He then got ahead of Escobar 0-2 with two fastballs, but he couldn’t put him away. Escobar fouled off two more fastballs before Strahm missed with two curveballs and a fastball. The final pitch was a fastball in the middle of the plate.
Strahm has issued three walks in two outings. In 2016, he finished with just 11 walks in 22 innings. He appeared locked in during spring training, prepared to repeat his terrific 2016, though he did suffer through one blowup on March 20, allowing five runs to the Cincinnati Reds.
Strahm has not been the only guilty party in the Royals bullpen. Travis Wood allowed two runs on Monday. Nathan Karns allowed four earned runs on Wednesday. All 12 runs allowed have come in the seventh inning.
In the moments after Wednesday’s loss, Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland said Strahm simply needed to get back “on the attack”. The club, however, remains confident in his stuff. The proof is in the results from last season.
“We know what Strahm’s capable of, and Woody’s track record,” Eiland said. “And what we saw in the spring. It’s one of those things.”