TORONTO — In the beginning, there were balloons and flags, special guests and serenades from 13,446 strong at Rogers Centre. The Royals were guests at the Blue Jays’ homecoming, which was 670 days in the making thanks to pandemic-induced border restrictions.
“It feels like Opening Day, just all through the city,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said before the game. “You go through the hotel, and everybody’s talking about the big day. It’s amazing that we’re almost in August and everybody’s so jazzed about this first game here at Rogers Centre.”
“Before the game, it was pretty special to see the fans in this city get a team back,” Lynch said. “And I think a lot of people rely on sports so much as a rock in their life or something to get away. And to not have that, to see the city get a team back is pretty special.”
Lynch, the Royals’ No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline, was coming off eight scoreless innings against the Tigers, in which he walked none and scattered five hits. Matheny acknowledged pregame that it was a “big wish” to see Lynch replicate that dominance, and of course that didn’t happen. But the lefty still worked a quality start — six innings, with three runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out two — against Toronto’s quality lineup.
“I felt like it was one of those outings where you really had to grind through it,” Lynch said, and that statement was most evident in the second inning.
After allowing a first-pitch home run to Teoscar Hernández — putting the Blue Jays on the board and igniting the eager crowd — Lynch walked a pair and allowed an RBI double. Control is one of Lynch’s best features, as evidenced by his one walk allowed over his previous 11 1/3 innings, but he fell out of his rhythm for a frame.
What he didn’t do, though, is let a rough inning derail his night. He did his best to stay in the moment, looking no further ahead than the next pitch.
“Because if you start looking forward,” he explained, “that’s when you get frustrated and maybe you try to do too much.”
That type of mentality is one of the main areas of growth Matheny has seen from his budding 24-year-old.
“The adjustment that he’s made — whether it’s with his disposition, his body language, his mound presence — regardless of how it goes,” Matheny said. “If he gives up a couple [runs] like he did in the second, he comes right back and is making good pitches. He’s not hiding or throwing around the strike zone.”
Indeed, Lynch recalibrated. Toronto tacked on another run in the third, but from there he retired nine of his final 11 batters. It wasn’t always pretty; the Blue Jays hit a pair of fly balls to the warning track in succession. But Lynch gutted through, and lopped off nearly a full run from his ERA (bringing it to 6.95).
The Royals never led, but they pulled themselves within a run in the sixth thanks to a solo blast by Perez. He has now homered in three consecutive games, which is one shy of his career-high homer streak (from April 6-9, 2017).
But Kansas City’s main story right now is starting pitching, and the fact that the rotation is consistently giving the team a chance to win. The Royals have now enjoyed six consecutive quality starts (the team’s longest streak since it had seven from Aug. 10-18, 2019), as well as nine in their past 10 games.
“These guys are believing in their stuff, believing in their defense and aggressively attacking the strike zone,” Matheny said of his starters. “And if they get a little hiccup, they stick right back with that game plan. It’s been exactly what we’ve asked our starting staff to do, and if they do that, we’ve got a chance.”