Royals

The Royals get mixed bag from their starting pitchers as Yankees sweep doubleheader

Jakob Junis had a strong outing despite Royals loss

Kansas City Royals pitcher Jakob Junis pitched six innings and struck out seven in a 7-3 loss to the New York Yankees at Kauffman Stadium on May 25, 2019. Junis left the game with the score tied.
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Kansas City Royals pitcher Jakob Junis pitched six innings and struck out seven in a 7-3 loss to the New York Yankees at Kauffman Stadium on May 25, 2019. Junis left the game with the score tied.

Whatever the Royals hope to build in the future and however they’d like to shape their roster, it will all begin and end with the pitching staff they’re able to construct through shrewd decisions in free agency, rolling the dice successfully on low-risk high-reward players and, primarily, through evaluations of their homegrown talent.

Saturday’s doubleheader with the New York Yankees (34-17) provided an example of what makes those assessments of in-house talent challenging. Every fifth day for starters and every day for relievers holds the potential to either reinforce or further question previous lines of thought on a pitcher, particularly pitchers with limited experience in their current roles.

While Jakob Junis delivered his best start in three weeks, Jorge Lopez’s outing may have been as detrimental as Junis’ was encouraging. Meanwhile, reliever Scott Barlow also hit a little bit of a snag after having been stellar out of the bullpen of late.

The Royals (17-34) were swept in the doubleheader by the Yankees at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday and will on Sunday afternoon try to avoid being swept in the series. The Yankees set the tone for the day with a 7-3 win in the afternoon tilt, and they won the nightcap 6-5. The Royals got the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning of the second game.

If Lopez’s spot in the rotation wasn’t already somewhat in doubt, his start on Saturday night might have just put the spot up for grabs.

Lopez (0-6) retired three of the first four batters he faced in the second game, then the wheels came off. He faced six batters in the second inning, but he didn’t record an out before manager Ned Yost took the ball from him. Lopez allowed five runs on six hits and one walk.

“It could have been way different if I threw my curveball like (Jakob Junis) did in the first game,” Lopez said. “I couldn’t finish the execution, and it hurt us.”

The starting rotation and its collective lack of consistency served as one of the areas general manager Dayton Moore identified as an issue as the team passed the 40-game mark of the season.

Lopez, acquired last season from Milwaukee as part of the Mike Moustakas trade, has shown lights-out stuff in the past. Royals fans certainly haven’t forgotten him taking a perfect game into the ninth inning last fall in Minnesota.

He’s also shown an ability to get hit hard and leave the bullpen heavily taxed. Lopez didn’t make it through four innings in three of his past five starts, including Saturday’s brief outing.

Lopez has now given up four earned runs or more in eight of his 10 starts this season. He’s given up 12 home runs in his 10 starts, and opponents have enjoyed substantial success against him when he’s had to turn a lineup over and face hitters a second or third time around.

Opponents have batted .184 against Lopez the first time through the lineup, but that average jumps up to .336 the second and third times around.

The other thing that potentially works against Lopez is that Glenn Sparkman, the guy who took over after his start on Saturday cratered, showed enough promise out of the bullpen and in a spot start earlier this month that Moore described Sparkman as “right there competing for a spot in that rotation.”

Sparkman fought command on Saturday — he allowed a run on two hits and three walks in 3 1/3 innings — but he stopped the merry-go-round on the bases for the Yankees. Sparkman left with the Royals within two, 6-4, in the fifth inning.

The Royals bullpen contingent of Sparkman, Kevin McCarthy, Brad Boxberger, Jake Diekman and Ian Kennedy held the Yankees to one run on four hits in eight innings in the second game.

Junis did not factor into the decision in the first game, but the three runs he allowed were his fewest in a start since May 1. He worked ahead in the count most of the night — 21 of 26 first-pitch strikes — struck out seven and walked just two in six innings.

Right from the start, Junis displayed flashes of the good and bad that have been part of nearly every outing this season. He showed off a late-breaking slider that prompted frustration, hesitation and submission in the shape of half-hearted swings from Yankees hitters.

However, he also walked the leadoff batter of the inning followed by a single to put himself in a somewhat precarious position right away.

With two outs, Clint Frazier jumped on the first strike he saw and swatted it into right field for a two-run double to give the Yankees a two-run lead.

Between the end of the first inning and end of the fifth inning, Junis retired 10 of 12 batters he faced. He registered all seven strikeouts in the first five innings.

“I made some pretty good pitches, still worked out of a couple of jams, had some guys on base and luckily limited the damage,” Junis said. “Got into that sixth inning and through six today.”

Right-handed reliever Scott Barlow had appeared to be a revelation out of the bullpen so far this season. He’d repeatedly handled tight situations and came out on the other side more often than not.

That changed in the seventh inning of the first game Saturday.

After a Whit Merrifield home run for the Royals tied the score 3-3, the Yankees grabbed the lead back in the top of the seventh on a Luke Voit 470-foot two-run home run. Voit, a native of Milwood, Mo., and a Missouri State product, went 2 for 5 with two RBIs in the first game of the doubleheader.

Barlow allowed four runs on four hits, including the home run, and a walk in 1 1/3 innings, and the Yankees controlled the final three innings.

“We gave up six runs on three hanging sliders today,” Yost said after the first game. “Barlow threw two of them. It was a hanger to Voit that he hit a mile, and another one to Estrada for a two-run double there. You take away those three pitches and it’s a different game, but that’s baseball.”

Yankees 7, Royals 3

First Game

New York

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Hicks cf

4

2

1

0

1

2

.200

Voit 1b

5

2

2

2

0

0

.266

Sanchez c

4

0

0

0

1

3

.268

Torres ss

5

0

0

0

0

2

.293

Frazier dh

3

1

1

2

1

0

.260

Gardner lf

4

2

3

0

0

0

.240

Urshela 3b

3

0

1

1

0

1

.333

Estrada 2b

4

0

2

2

0

1

.318

Maybin rf

4

0

0

0

0

1

.233



Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Lopez 2b

4

1

2

0

0

1

.324

Merrifield rf

4

1

2

3

0

1

.296

Mondesi ss

4

0

1

0

0

2

.286

Gordon lf

4

0

0

0

0

2

.281

Dozier 1b

4

0

0

0

0

0

.294

Soler dh

4

0

0

0

0

1

.243

Owings 3b

3

0

0

0

0

2

.137

Maldonado c

3

0

0

0

0

1

.197

Hamilton cf

3

1

1

0

0

1

.227



New York

200

001

220

7

10

1

Kansas City

000

003

000

3

6

0

E—Sanchez (8). LOB—New York 6, Kansas City 3. 2B—Frazier (5), Estrada (3). 3B—Gardner (3). HR—Voit (13), off Barlow; Merrifield (7), off Happ. RBIs—Voit 2 (37), Frazier 2 (26), Urshela (20), Estrada 2 (11), Merrifield 3 (26). SB—Gardner (6), Mondesi (18). SF—Urshela.

New York

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

ERA

Happ, W, 4-3

6

4

3

3

0

10

5.09

Ottavino, H, 11

1

0

0

0

0

0

1.48

Cessa

2

2

0

0

0

1

3.33

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

ERA

Junis

6

6

3

3

2

7

5.58

Barlow, L, 1-1

1 1/3

4

4

4

1

1

4.62

Peralta

1 2/3

0

0

0

0

2

5.48

Inherited runners-scored—Peralta 1-0. T—2:42. A—25,243 (37,903).

Yankees 6, Royals 5

Second Game

New York

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

LeMahieu 2b-1b

5

0

1

1

0

1

.320

Voit dh

4

0

0

0

0

1

.261

Gardner cf

5

0

1

0

0

2

.238

Torres ss

4

0

0

0

1

1

.287

Morales 1b

4

1

1

0

1

0

.200

Estrada pr-2b

0

0

0

0

0

0

.318

Frazier rf

3

2

1

0

2

1

.262

Urshela 3b

3

1

1

0

2

0

.333

Romine c

4

1

3

2

0

0

.227

Maybin lf

3

1

2

3

1

1

.254



Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Lopez 2b

4

0

0

0

0

0

.293

Merrifield rf

3

1

1

0

1

0

.297

Mondesi ss

4

1

2

1

0

0

.291

Gordon lf

4

0

2

0

0

0

.286

Dozier 3b

4

1

2

1

0

1

.299

Soler dh

4

1

1

1

0

1

.244

O’Hearn 1b

3

0

0

0

0

0

.174

Hamilton ph

0

1

0

0

1

0

.227

Gallagher c

3

0

1

2

0

1

.137

Gore cf

4

0

0

0

0

4

.333



New York

051

000

000

6

10

1

Kansas City

101

200

001

5

9

1

E—Chapman (1), Gore (1). LOB—New York 10, Kansas City 4. 2B—Maybin (3), Mondesi (11), Dozier 2 (11), Soler (13). RBIs—LeMahieu (26), Romine 2 (11), Maybin 3 (7), Mondesi (41), Dozier (30), Soler (32), Gallagher 2 (4). SB—Frazier (1). SF—Gallagher. DP—Kansas City 2.

New York

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

ERA

Green

1

3

1

1

0

0

12.15

Adams, W, 1-0

4

5

3

3

1

3

3.86

Holder, H, 2

1

0

0

0

0

1

4.68

Kahnle, H, 8

1

0

0

0

0

1

1.71

Britton, H, 10

1

1

0

0

0

1

2.31

Chapman, S, 14-15

1

0

1

0

1

1

1.74

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

ERA

Lopez, L, 0-6

1

6

5

5

1

1

6.79

Sparkman

3 1/3

2

1

1

3

1

2.92

McCarthy

1 2/3

1

0

0

0

2

9.82

Boxberger

1

1

0

0

2

0

6.16

Diekman

1

0

0

0

0

2

3.00

Kennedy

1

0

0

0

1

1

3.05

Lopez pitched to 6 batters in the 2nd. Inherited runners-scored—Sparkman 1-0, McCarthy 1-0. HBP—Sparkman (Voit). T—3:07. A—18,599 (37,903).

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.
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