The Kansas City Royals are not where they want to be in the American League Central. But as they prepare for the second game of a three-game home series Saturday night against the Baltimore Orioles, Royals manager Mike Matheny has a simple message for his players.
Focus on the game at hand.
The same could be said for the Orioles, who, like the Royals, are in last place in their division. The Orioles are 27 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East; the Royals trail the Chicago White Sox by 17 in the Central.
The Orioles will send Jorge Lopez (2-12, 5.95 ERA) to the mound Saturday, while fellow right-hander Brady Singer (3-6, 4.52) will get the start for the Royals.
The Royals got off to a good start to the season’s second half with a 9-2 victory Friday night. All-Star Whit Merrifield went 4-for-4 with two runs scored and three RBIs. Nicky Lopez added a career-high four RBIs.
The Orioles got only three innings from their starter, rookie Keegan Akin, who allowed six runs on eight hits.
“Just poor pitch selection and didn’t miss many barrels,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said of Akin’s effort. “Had a tough night.”
Jorge Lopez, who was activated off the bereavement list by Baltimore on Saturday, has lost six straight decisions. The 12 losses are the most in the majors by two (Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo and Baltimore teammate Matt Harvey each have 10 losses).
“Physically, I don’t feel tired,” Lopez said after his latest loss, July 9 against the Chicago White Sox. “Mentally maybe, to stay over, and over and over at the same spot. It gets you down. But I’m a strong man. I have a family, and they give me strength.”
Jorge Lopez will be making his first career appearance against Kansas City.
The two teams didn’t get to last place in one day, and they can’t get out of the hole in short order, either. Matheny said he doesn’t want his players — especially the young ones — to try to do too much.
“Anything beyond (the next) game is a waste of time and energy for us,” he said Friday. “All we’ve got is this game, and we’re going to stay laser focused on it.
“We have to get better. We all know that. Where we are right now is not where we want to be. The only way that’s going to get any better is to constantly improve. Most of that comes down to not getting distracted.
“Especially for the young guys, don’t put too much that you have to accomplish. That chokes off your ability and is counter-productive.”
As for Singer, Matheny said he has the same message he’s been telling the youngster all season.
“Trust your stuff,” Matheny said. “Focus on consistency. Obviously, we’re going to continue to challenge Brady to develop and use that third pitch. He’s had an impressive amount of success with just using two pitches, but it’s time for him to trust his stuff.”
Singer has gotten better in recent starts, allowing one or two earned runs in five straight starts. His most recent win came June 1, however, with two losses and five no-decisions since.
–Field Level Media