No, a new hitting coach in his first hours on the job couldn’t really be blamed for Kansas City’s offensive failings in a 5-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Monday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Regardless, Alec Zumwalt’s first day in uniform basically showed a representation of the challenge he now faces: tasked with fixing yearlong struggles while seeing glimpses of what KC’s offense could be when things go right.
The Royals fired hitting coach Terry Bradshaw on Monday morning and replaced him with Zumwalt, the team’s senior director for player development and hitting performance. That came for a Royals team off to a disappointing start with an offense that ranked bottom-five in most major statistical categories.
For the early going, the bats were silent again ... while also going against a familiar but not-particularly intimidating starting pitcher.
Veteran Johnny Cueto — a former Royal called up from the minors for his first outing in 2022 — baffled KC early, pitching six shutout innings while allowing just two hits with seven strikeouts.
“It’s hard to have an approach when you got a guy who’s gonna throw everything and anything at you with all kinds of different deliveries,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “You have an approach, but there’s not just one pattern you’re gonna fall into. That’s how he has been as good as he has been for a long time.
“You’re not going to see the same pitch twice. You’re probably not going to see the same (arm) slot twice. You’re probably not gonna see the same windup twice. So he is constantly messing with the timing of a hitter, and that’s pitching. He executed when he had to.”
KC’s early offensive struggles set up some heroics late, even if they wouldn’t be enough.
Trailing 3-0 in the eighth, the Royals got an infield hit from Michael A. Taylor and pinch-hit single from Ryan O’Hearn before Kyle Isbel struck out. After that, though, Whit Merrifield blasted a pitch to the base of the wall in left for a two-RBI double, advancing to third on the throw home.
Andrew Benintendi tied the score four pitches later, lacing a RBI single to right for the third run off White Sox reliever Kendall Graveman.
But Luis Robert followed with the game-winning blow in the 10th off Scott Barlow, sending a two-out, two-run home run to the seats in left-center.
“It was a slider, kind of was trying to get it away. I think my body just pulled it away too much,” Barlow said. “Kind of left (it) out hanging over the middle of the plate to especially a hot hitter right now. It stinks.”
The Royals (12-21) will continue their five-game series against the White Sox with a day-night doubleheader Tuesday. Game times are set for 1:10 and 6:10 p.m.; Jonathan Heasley will take the mound in Game 1, while Brady Singer will be recalled to start the nightcap.
“Excited to get him out there,” Matheny said of Singer ahead of Monday’s loss. “We know he’s a big part of this organization.”