I know we don’t care about Cactus League standings, but it’s still pretty impressive that the Kansas City Royals have won 14 games this spring while only losing three—that’s a winning percentage of .824 (!), over a hundred points higher than the next-closest team (LAD) and blowing the leaders of the Grapefruit League (TOR, .624) out of the water.
Today’s game was an untelevised affair, which is too bad because a) it was an 8-6 Mariners win over the red-hot Royals; b) Logan Gilbert struck out six batters, a spring high for him, and apparently featured his splitter quite a bit; c) catcher Jacob Nottingham hit an inside-the-park home run, the peak of spring training silliness. Here are your highlights, then, such as they are:
Walter Makes a Spring Appearance:
Logan Gilbert opened his day with a strikeout of Nate Eaton, but Eaton would then reach on a dropped third strike, aka my least favorite play in baseball. Where’s the fix for that, Manfred? He would then steal second while Gilbert went to 3-0 on Edward Olivares, but he Logan bounced back to strike out Olivares on a fastball. Gilbert would surrender a run on a line drive base hit off the bat of Maikel Garcia, scoring a runner who shouldn’t have been there in the first place, but then finish up the first with a called strike three on a breaking ball on the outside corner to Nick Loftin. Divish has a thread of Gilbert’s various strikeouts from today; what’s especially nice is I count at least three different pitches he’s collecting strikeouts on here.
A thread of Logan Gilbert strikeouts ...— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) March 14, 2023
This one didn't count for an out as it got away from Tom Murphy. But the pitch was dirty. pic.twitter.com/ffivMc3aFg
Gilbert did give up another run, on back-to-back doubles as Kyle Isbel attacked a first-pitch fastball for a double followed by a double off the bat of Eaton, but that was the extent of the damage over his four innings of work. He also issued no free passes while striking out six.
The Wong Song:
The Mariners got on the board against Brad Keller in the second; Cooper Hummel collected yet another hit, followed by a Colin Moran base hit. Zach DeLoach walked to load the bases with one out and then Kolten Wong delivered, working a full count before hitting a nice clean line drive single to score two. He also hit a flyout that Dave Sims was convinced was going to be a home run. Stupid wind.
Jarred Just Continues:
Spring’s best hyped storyline got another boost today as Jarred Kelenic checked in with another RBI extra-base hit. New Royals reliever Mike Mayers was greeted by Zach DeLoach with a line drive base hit, who was then brought home when Kelenic scorched this ball down the right field line:
Hancock Logs Some Innings:
Emerson Hancock pitched two innings in this game, somewhat unevenly. Hancock walked his first batter on five pitches but then got a double play and a groundout to quickly close up the inning. His second inning of work was more adventurous: after opening the frame with a called strike three, Morgan McCullough snuck a single up the middle. Hancock then got a swinging strikeout from Tucker Bradley and looked poised to get out of the inning, but MLB vet Jorge Bonifacio instead smacked a two-run homer off young Emerson, bringing the score to a tight 6-4. Hancock was able to alleviate further damage by getting Tyler Tolbert swinging to give him three punchouts on the day: a welcome sign, as one of the questions about Hancock has been how much his stuff is able to miss bats.
A Dingers Twofer? In This Economy?:
Before Hancock surrendered the dinger, the Mariners had extended their lead over the Royals in the seventh, when Mike Ford snuck a ball over the fence for a home run, and Jacob Nottingham, who is a Large Lad, hit an inside-the-park home run when KC center fielder John Rave smashed into the outfield wall. (He would leave the game, but under his own power and apparently fine.) I’m pretty sure Luis Castillo could strike a batter out in the time it takes Nottingham to round the bases:
Here's the video of Jacob Nottingham's inside the park homer. Manny Acta had an aggressive send on the play. pic.twitter.com/VoiXlGjhEI— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) March 14, 2023
Riley O’Brien Crumbles Under Pressure of Being Anointed King of the Pile:
Please note this sub-heading is entirely a joke, but it was the first time we’ve seen the Shorewood HS alum falter this spring. Sent in to pitch the ninth with the Mariners up 8-4, O’Brien couldn’t totally get the handle on his stuff today, as his inning went: walk, wild pitch, walk, flyout, infield single, wild pitch, strikeout, wild pitch, strikeout. Call him Wildey O’Brien today, but despite allowing two runs to score, O’Brien did deliver the game safely to the “W” column and collect another two strikeouts in doing so, pushing him to second-most strikeouts among Mariners relievers this spring (Brennan Bernardino remains the leader, with 10 in an equal number of innings pitched as O’Brien, 5.1). I named O’Brien at the top of my Pitching Pile Power Rankings for the past week, and he’s making a strong case so far to make a repeat appearance.
Compass Points of Interest:
- The day after J.P. Crawford was diagnosed to have a case of the dreaded sog, he was back swinging a bat as the DH today and stroked a nice single (he almost had two but Jackie Bradley Jr., showing an obscene amount of hustle for spring training, robbed J.P. of a hit with a diving catch), so maybe they stuck J.P. in front of a box fan overnight or put him in a box of rice or something.
- Tom Murphy did his part to continue propping up the Mariners’ catchers’ obscene spring line with an RBI double.
- Paul Sewald appeared in this game, mowed over the three Royals hitters he was assigned (popout, flyout, comebacker), and went on about his day.
- Randy Bednar, who was with Modesto this past year, made his first appearance with the big-league club and made quite an impression, smacking a two-run homer that wiped out the two runs the Royals had scored in the half-inning before and kept the lead comfortable for the Mariners.
- One of the Mariners’ top young prospects also made an appearance in this game: in his lone plate appearance, Gabriel González (“El Dron”) hit the ball hard, but right at the third baseman. Better luck next time, Gabby.