Singer and more takeaways from Rays series

After two days of pitching duels against the Rays, Royals starter Brady Singer wasn’t able to carry it over to Thursday.

The right-hander tied his career high with six runs allowed in the Royals’ 7-2 loss, as the club dropped the finale and the three-game series to Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field before heading to Minnesota this weekend for a three-game set against the team chasing Kansas City in the American League Central.

“Credit to them, they played better than we did,” Whit Merrifield said. “They’re a really good team. We’ve come a long ways from a couple years ago. That would have been ugly from the get go a couple years ago. But we’re learning, and we’re getting there.”

Here are three takeaways from the series:

Singer’s short start

Pitching for the first time in his home state, Singer exited with two outs in the third inning after throwing 70 pitches. His troubles stemmed from a lack of fastball command, and he didn’t seem to have the typical run on his sinker that he’s shown before. Plus, the Rays pounced on his mistakes. Austin Meadows hit a two-run triple in the first inning — the only hit of the inning — on a sinker down the middle and then a two-run homer in the third inning on a hanging slider.

“I think a couple of those mistakes in the first inning set the tone, and he had trouble getting his rhythm back,” manager Mike Matheny said.

Singer has shown he can bounce back from these types of starts. The takeaway here is the ramifications of his short start, considering the Royals haven’t announced who Saturday’s starter will be against the Twins. Kansas City used both Jakob Junis and Ervin Santana, two of its long relievers, in the loss.

Junis threw 46 pitches, but Santana could still be in the running for a short start; he threw 18 pitches in a scoreless eighth inning. Or the Royals could promote one of the starters from Triple-A Omaha for that fifth spot in the rotation, like Jackson Kowar or Ronald Bolaños.

Royals need Soler’s bat

The Royals scored five runs this series, and part of the reason was because they faced three good starters in Rich Hill (13 strikeouts in eight innings), Tyler Glasnow (11 strikeouts in eight innings) and Shane McClanahan, who pitched five scoreless innings and had a seven-run lead before Ryan O’Hearn’s two-run homer in the sixth off Michael Wacha.

“To give that kind of stuff a head start makes it difficult,” Matheny said. “The fight we talked about, we saw some of that late a couple times. There was a lot of damage done and a lot of room to catch up by that point.”

And the struggles shouldn’t be placed on one hitter out of nine, but it’s hard to ignore the slump that Jorge Soler is in. The right fielder/designated hitter’s last hit was his fourth home run of the season last Wednesday against the Brewers, and he’s now 0-for-21 with one walk that came on Wednesday night. Soler is now hitting .171 with a .564 OPS. Getting Adalberto Mondesi back in the lineup this series was a big step toward the offense’s potential this year, but having Soler turn the corner will be another.

Soler’s production masks some of the data that teams look at more than box scores. His average exit velocity (93.3 mph) and hard-hit percentage (52.4 percent) are in the top 10 percent of the Majors and are the highest of his career. But he’s also chasing 25.5 percent of the time — his highest percentage since ’18 (25.7 percent).

The emergence of Brentz

Kansas City didn’t need him Thursday, but one of the most notable storylines in this series was the emergence of lefty Jake Brentz in high-leverage situations. He pitched 1 1/3 hitless innings on Tuesday night and then came in for the bottom of the ninth Wednesday after the Royals tied it and worked around two walks for the scoreless inning.

The rookie keeps earning the Royals’ trust with each challenge he’s given, and that could be a big boost to the bullpen, given how much Kansas City has relied on Scott Barlow and Josh Staumont in high-leverage spots to start this season.

“We talk a lot about those building blocks, and the first block is, ‘OK, you’re here now, go do your thing, and you belong here,’” Matheny said Wednesday. “And they’ll shake their head and say, ‘Yeah, you’re right,’ but there’s always going to be that little bit of doubt until they start to accomplish some of the things that they can. And then you build and build.”