The Royals pitcher who started Sunday’s game, Brian Flynn, hadn’t started in the majors in nearly three years, and he didn’t wake up expecting to start. That’s how fast the big-league life comes at you in July with the trade deadline looming.
Scheduled starter Homer Bailey was dealt to the Oakland Athletics prior to the game, which meant Flynn, a left-handed reliever, made his first start since July 19, 2016.
Flynn allowed seven runs in a little more than two innings (he didn’t record an out in the third), and the Detroit Tigers scored early and often as the Royals used six pitchers in a 12-8 loss in a slugfest that took a toll on both sides’ pitching staffs in front of an announced 13,763 in the final game of the three-game set at Kauffman Stadium.
“I just kind of let some things snowball,” Flynn said of the third inning. “We got the matchup with the lefty to lead off the inning that you want. I’ve got to keep him off the bags to start the inning the right way. From there, I lost another lefty. Those two guys really hurt me right there. Then, yanked a slider that kind of got everything snowballing.”
The teams combined for 29 hits (12 extra-base hits), and at least one run scored in six of the first seven innings.
“There are days where the pitching has to cover the offense and the offense has to cover the pitching,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “But it was just too much to cover today. The offense kept battling, kept putting runs on the board, but it was just one of those days. We really struggled to put guys away.”
Whit Merrifield extended his hitting streak to 12 games, while Jorge Soler went 2 for 4 with a home run and three RBIs, Adalberto Mondesi went 2 for 4 with a triple and two runs scored, and Cam Gallagher went 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored.
After the Tigers (29-59) took an early one-run lead in the top of the first, the Royals bounced back with three runs in the bottom half on a Hunter Dozier RBI single and Soler’s 25th home run of the season, a two-run blast to center field.
The Tigers scored the next eight runs, including a seven-run third inning, and never gave the lead back.
The Royals (32-62) trailed by as many as six runs, 9-3, in the fourth inning. Though they pulled within two runs, 10-8, going into the seventh, they couldn’t get over the hump.
“We just weren’t able to string enough to push it across, but we got close,” Merrifield said of the offense.
The high-scoring contests also underscored the next big question for the Royals: Who fills Bailey’s spot in the starting rotation?
Left-hander Eric Skoglund has gone 2-3 with a 6.51 ERA in seven starts for Triple-A Omaha since serving his 80-game PED suspension. Last season, he went 1-6 with a 5.14 ERA in 14 appearances (13 starts) in the majors.
Right-hander Scott Blewett, a former second-round pick, has gone 5-7 with a 7.26 ERA in 14 starts at Triple-A this season.
Arnaldo Hernandez, who has pitched at both Double-A and Triple-A this season, and Connor Greene, who has spent the entire season at Double-A, are both on the 40-man roster, as is Heath Fillmyer. But Fillmyer is working his way back from injury and has pitched one inning in the minors since May 27.
The Royals have also experimented with the “opener” concept at Triple-A with both Kyle Zimmer and Josh Staumont.
The Royals do have an open spot on the 40-man roster, so they have room to add a player to the roster who might not currently be an option.