With the Kansas City Royals stumbling out of the gate in 2022, no one has heard the wrath of the fans more than veteran Carlos Santana. The Royals have now won back-to-back games for the first time since the mid-May, and Santana is at the center of that as well.
The Royals will host the Baltimore Orioles on Friday in the second game of a four-game series. Baltimore left-hander Bruce Zimmermann (2-4, 4.87 ERA) will face Kansas City right-hander Jonathan Heasley (0-3, 4.62).
Kansas City defeated Baltimore 7-5 on Thursday, and Santana had the go-ahead, two-run home run, a 423-foot blast in the fifth inning that cleared the bullpen in right field. Coming off his first four-hit game of the season on Wednesday, Santana was just happy for the team’s win.
“I give the work for the team,” the first baseman said on the field after the game. “I feel good and we have to keep it up.”
Santana entered June hitting just .150 (18-for-120). He had an OPS of .528. With two first basemen Vinnie Pasquantino (16 home runs, 57 RBIs and a 1.012 OPS) and Nick Pratto (10 home runs, 28 RBIs, .796 OPS), tearing up Triple-A, Royals fans were demanding that Santana be cut, or at least benched.
In June, though, Santana is 8-for-17 (.471) with two doubles, a home run and three RBIs in five games. Mike Matheny expected that from Santana, but the Royals’ manager is still glad to see the hard work pay off.
“I don’t know how you can put a value on what (confidence) does for a player,” Matheny said. “It’s one of the key ingredients. Right now he’s got some confidence. He continues to take good at-bats. That’s the guy we brought in here.”
Heasley, who will be facing the Orioles for the first time, has made two straight quality starts but has yet to pick up a win. He has allowed 25 hits in 25 1/3 innings this year, but his biggest challenge continues to be free passes, as he has issued 18 walks.
Zimmermann was scheduled to start the opening game of the series but got bumped back a day. He has slumped lately, giving up 20 runs over 21 innings in his past four starts. In his latest outing, against the Cleveland Guardians on June 3, he gave up five runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings as the Orioles took a 6-3 loss. Six of the 10 hits came on changeups.
“I think the only time I’m getting hurt with that changeup is when it’s up in the zone, which it’s been a little bit more up as of late,” Zimmermann said postgame. “The back half of this outing, I was able to establish it at the bottom of the zone and through the bottom of the zone and able to play that one-seam (sinker) off of that. … I kind of wish I had done that from the get-go today.”
Zimmermann has faced the Royals only once in his career. He gave up two runs on five hits in six innings on May 8 as the Orioles posted a 4-2 win in the second game of a doubleheader.
–Field Level Media