“The best win of the year.”
The Royals have been searching for offense, consistency in the starting rotation and continued progress from young players seen as keys to the future. On Sunday, they got all of those things. They also got resiliency in the face of what was very nearly the worst loss of the season.
Then came a seven-run seventh inning for the Rockies, and the Royals headed to the ninth down, 7-6. But Salvador Perez delivered a go-ahead two-run single with one out and Scott Barlow locked down his fourth save with a 1-2-3 ninth.
With the series win over Colorado, Kansas City went 4-5 on the road trip. The moment that changed what would have been a somber flight home into a happy one was Perez’s at-bat in the ninth. But there was much more that made this win different from the others so far in 2022.
Here’s the anatomy of the best Royals win of the season so far:
Youth is served
The Royals are looking to the future. They have been for years now. They have the No. 1 prospect in the game in Witt, as well as other young players who will be critical to Kansas City’s success in the years to come.
On Sunday, Witt homered for the second time in as many days, a solo shot in the seventh inning off Rockies right-hander Jhoulys Chacín. Rivera drove in Witt in the fifth with his first homer of the season off starter Austin Gomber.
And Lynch, who has had an up-and-down 2022 campaign, was very good in the series finale. He didn’t have a feel for his slider the entire outing, but when he did, it was effective — of the 19 swings he induced on the pitch, he got eight whiffs, and three of his four strikeouts on the afternoon came with the slider.
Lynch’s focus has been incorporating more of his other offerings into the mix, which he did on Sunday; he threw 32 fastballs and 23 changeups in addition to his 40 sliders.
“If they can get a comfortable swing off, there’s a better chance, particularly here, of damage happening,” Lynch said. “I didn’t really feel like I had great stuff today, but I just tried my best to mix and keep them off-balance. The slider is usually a lot more consistent location-wise, but when I put it in a good spot, it was a good pitch.”
Lynch recognized the significance of the contributions from his fellow youngsters as the Royals keep building.
“I think it was just a matter of time with Rivvy and Bobby,” Lynch said. “I think there’s just a little bit of a learning curve for all of us.”
The youngsters may have gotten things started, but the veterans stepped up in the game’s most crucial moments.
With the Rockies’ Connor Joe at first base and two outs in the eighth, C.J. Cron lined a ball headed for the left-center-field gap. If it found grass, Joe would likely have scored. But Michael A. Taylor laid out for a tremendous full-extension grab.
Then came Perez’s heroics in the ninth.
“We had every ounce of trust in him,” Rivera said through an interpreter. “Everybody was sure he was going to deliver.”
The early innings were for the Royals’ youth movement to shine. But in crunch time, it was the veteran who won the day as he got the bat head out in front of a 97 mph sinker from Rockies closer Daniel Bard.
“I think it’s just experience. … The old guys took care of it [in the end],” Perez said. “No, not ‘old,’ just ‘experienced.’”
When Barlow struck out Randal Grichuk to end the game, he let out a scream.
“We came back, we fought and we got the lead back in the ninth,” Barlow said. “I was just fired up, coming back like that and then being able to do my job and secure the win.”
He secured what Matheny called the best win of the season for his ballclub.
“I agree with him,” Perez said. “Happy flight.”