The Kansas City Royals will try to claim their first home series victory since April when they host the Cleveland Guardians in the second game of a three-game series Saturday afternoon. The Royals walked off the Guardians 4-3 Friday night in the series opener.
Triston McKenzie (5-6, 3.71 ERA) will get the start for the Guardians. Jonathan Heasley (1-4, 4.76) will get the ball for the Royals in a clash of right-handers.
The walk-off win was just the second of the season for the Royals, with the first one coming in the second game of the season, also against the Guardians. Michael A. Taylor’s line drive to right drove in pinch-runner Edward Olivares from second. It was Taylor’s fifth career walk-off hit.
“He had the exact kind of approach you need in that situation, just put pressure on the defense,” Kansas City manager Mike Matheny said of Taylor’s hit. “You let the ball travel and don’t overcommit. You don’t have to do anything big at that point. It was a perfect swing.”
The Guardians are struggling. Friday’s loss was their fifth straight and 13th in the past 17 games. They lost a game while leading after the seventh inning for the first time this season (24-0 previously). It was their first such loss since Aug. 27, 2021. It was also their fourth walk-off loss of the season.
They’ll count on McKenzie to snap the skid. He’s been hot or cold this season, with very few in-between outings. He has three quality starts in his past six, following five straight quality starts. But in the other three recent starts, he’s given up five, six and seven runs.
In his most recent start, he shut down the powerful New York Yankees lineup, allowing no runs on one hit in seven innings in a 2-0 victory on Sunday, the last time the Guardians won a game.
“That was really impressive,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said after McKenzie’s start. “We saw in the first games, if you give (the Yankees) an inch, they’re gonna probably take ’em out. And he really pitched aggressively, stayed out of the middle, spun the ball. That was fun to watch.”
McKenzie is 3-2 with a 3.15 ERA in eight career appearances (six starts) against the Royals.
Heasley might be pitching for his spot in the Royals’ rotation. He avoided a demotion, either to the bullpen or to the minors when Zack Greinke returned from the injured list because Daniel Lynch has a blister on the index finger of his left (pitching) hand.
But Lynch appears close to returning from the injured list.
Heasley has only faced the Guardians once, picking up a no-decision after allowing three runs in six innings in his only appearance. He will need to show a reason not to give up his spot. If he can repeat most recent outing, it will help. He allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits in six innings against the Astros on Monday.
Heasley was able to keep the Astros off-balance with a mix of fastballs, curveballs, sliders and change-ups.
“That was a big part of the game plan, especially with my spin pitches,” he said. “I didn’t really establish those last outing. We’re going to establish those, get the curveball going, get the slider going a little more. Try to get these guys off-balance. Because if I stay heavy fastball, they’re going to hit it. And when I threw the fastball today, I felt like I had pretty good command of it and executed it well.”
–Field Level Media