The Los Angeles Dodgers were a runaway freight train on a streak not seen in 100 years, with an outstanding lineup laden with All-Stars and multiple former MVPs. But Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Brady Singer was unmoved by his opponents’ accolades, streaks and resumes on Sunday afternoon.
Singer took the mound against the majors’ hottest team and dominated thoroughly for six innings, setting the Royals on the path to a 4-0 win in front of an announced 18,481 in attendance for the finale of a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium.
Singer pitched six scoreless innings an held the juggernaut Dodgers to one hit. He struck out seven and walked three.
“We’re watching a guy just take a step in his career,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said of Singer. “We knew all the intangibles were there as far as his makeup, as far as his work ethic, as far as his discipline and commitment to the game and how he loves to just compete. But he’s following up with execution.”
The Royals (48-68) snapped the Dodgers’ win streak at 12 games.
The Dodgers (79-34) had became the first National League team to win 12 straight games by multiple runs since the Pittsburgh Pirates had a 13-game streak in 1922.
Prior to the game, Matheny was asked about Singer potentially being a “stopper” for the Royals, the pitcher they turn to when they need to stop a slide or snap out of a funk. Matheny acknowledged that Singer had shown signs of growing into that sort of pitcher.
Then Singer handled one of baseball’s best clubs in a Dodgers squad that outscored the Royals 21-6 in the first two games of this series.
“I think it’s more of what he’s learning about himself,” Matheny said. “And to be one of the best, you’ve got to beat the best. This offense has been hot. This team has played really well. It’s as locked in of a club as I’ve seen in a long time, having all the pieces kind of working. We saw that displayed yesterday and it was hard to get it to stop.”
In his last five starts, Singer has allowed just six earned runs. Those starts have included matchups against the Dodgers, who own the best record in the majors, the AL East-leading New York Yankees and the playoff-contending Chicago White Sox.
The Dodgers and Yankees are the top-scoring teams in the majors.
“I just wanted to go right at them,” Singer said. “I wanted to bring my best stuff against theirs and kind of see what happens, and it worked out.”
Singer, a former first-round draft pick (18th overall in 2018), was sent back to the minors early in this season after not making the starting rotation out of spring training and made his first three appearances of the season out of the bullpen.
He credited his recent run to increased “confidence” and a “mentality” of attacking hitters. When asked about the comparison to his college days, he said he feels like he’s gotten back to the way he “attacked” at the University of Florida.
Singer also admitted that he “definitely got away from” that mentality as he adjusted to facing big-league hitters.
Saturday night, the Dodgers put the Royals on their heels from the start with a leadoff home run and a five-run first inning in which the first seven batters reached base.
On Sunday, Singer turned that around when he retired the side in order to start the game. He finished off the first inning with back-to-back strikeouts of All-Stars Trea Turner and Freddie Freeman. Both went down swinging.
“He is unbelievable, but especially over the past two months or so he has just been really efficient in his work,” Pasquantino said. “Those guys battled him all day, but he was able to keep them off-balance, keep them uncomfortable and made sure he gave us a chance to win the game. And we were able to do that.”
In the bottom half of the inning, Perez lined an RBI double into the right-center field gap that scored Taylor (leadoff single). That gave the Royals their first lead at any point during the three-game series.
“You know me, I like to swing,” the notoriously-free-swinging Perez responded with a smile and a wink. “Whatever is close to plate, I’m going to swing at that pitch. I’m not going to look for nothing.”
The first time through the Dodgers’ batting order, Singer struck out four, didn’t allow a hit and got one double play. The Royals’ outfielders didn’t have a ball hit to them. At the end of three innings, Singer had already struck out five and drawn some overmatched swings from talented hitters.
“That’s the kind of pitcher he is,” Perez said. “They just need some time to be in the big leagues. He’s just starting to know how he’s got to pitch in the big leagues and what kind of pitcher he wants to be. I feel like he’s one of the best we have right now. The way he was pitching, he proved that.”
Meanwhile, the Royals tacked on a run in the third inning after they loaded the bases with one out. Pasquantino’s RBI single gave them a two-run advantage, but Hunter Dozier grounded into an inning-ending double play that kept the frame from becoming an even bigger inning for the Royals.
The Dodgers didn’t get their first hit against Singer until Chris Taylor smacked a single up the middle in the fifth inning with a runner on and no outs. Singer retired the next three batters in order on a fly-ball, a strikeout and a popup.
Singer retired the side in order in the sixth, and he finished his outing by striking out Max Muncy, who had drawn two of the three walks Singer allowed.
The Royals got their third run in the sixth on an Isbel two-out RBI single. They scored their first three runs against Dodgers starter Tyler Anderson (13-2), just the second time in his past five starts that he allowed three earned runs or more.
Pasquantino’s solo homer in the eighth inning, his seventh of the season, gave the Royals their fourth and final run. He finished the homestand having slashed .424/.459/.848 with two doubles, 4 home runs, seven RBI and seven runs scored in nine games.
Royals rookie catcher MJ Melendez was in the original starting lineup in left field and batting leadoff. He was scratched from that lineup shortly before the game but made a pinch-hitting appearance off the bench in the eighth inning and grounded out.
“We decided to give another player an opportunity and took MJ out of the lineup,” Matheny said of the decision after the game.
Melendez, who made his major-league debut on May 3, went 10 for 35 (.286) with four home runs and 13 RBIs in the first 10 games of the homestand.