Royals off to one of the best starts in franchise history in 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Like Freddy Fermín’s shirt said after the Kansas City Royals swept the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday, the boys are playin’ some ball.

That tagline is the theme for the Royals in 2024 who are now second in the American League Central Division with a 32-19 record, 1.5 games behind the Cleveland Guardians.

Kansas City’s three-game sweep of the Tigers capped a 6-0 homestand against the Oakland Athletics and Tigers from May 17-22 where they never trailed in a game, their second undefeated homestand this season. This is the second time the Royals have had two unbeaten 6-game homestands in a single season since 1985.

32-19 also matches 1976 for the best start through 51 games in franchise history. And they did it with the highlight of their 2024 season, stellar pitching.

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Starter Cole Ragans picked up his fourth win of the year on Wednesday and had a no-hitter going through six innings before Riley Greene’s two-out single in the sixth. Ragans struck out the first seven of 10 batters en route to 12 strikeouts.

Ragans has carried over his quality performance from last season and is part of a Royals pitching rotation that is fourth in the majors with a rotation ERA of 3.03. Last year, they ranked 27th in 2023 with a 5.12 ERA.

34-year-old starter Seth Lugo is an AL Cy Young contender with a 7-1 record and 1.79 ERA that’s good for fifth in the league.

“We’re playing well all around,” Ragans said Wednesday. “The pitching, the hitting, the guys are passing batons [in the clubhouse].”

For first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino, nothing has changed with the team’s attitude since last season.

“Nah, no difference. I know that sounds weird because we’re way better but we’re not treating it any differently day by day,” he said.

The mentality is always to “Come to the field knowing we’re gonna win,” as outfielder Kyle Isbel said. “The past is the past” is also a repeated term that has circulated throughout the clubhouse.

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The days of Royals fielding bloopers are in the past as well. With the team improving its total defensive putouts from 29th in 2023 to 10th this season, the defense combined with the starting pitching has the Royals at a good pace with a positive vibe in the clubhouse.

“When balls are put in play, we’re making them out. That’s really important towards shortening the games,” Pasquantino said. “I think this is just a special group that enjoys playing with each other, playing for each other, and ready to just go get wins.”

Pasquantino, 26, is hitting .232\.311\.411 with 21 walks and 25 strikeouts this season but his defense along with strong performances from star shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. and star catcher Salvador Perez, have catapulted the Royals into their strong start.

A torn labrum ended Pasquantino’s 2023 season after 61 games so his defense was what he focused on as he recovered.

“I’ve told them for years, like, I believe I’m a first baseman. I believe I’m a good first baseman,” he said. “I was able to do defense out there wasn’t able to hit yet but I was able to do defense. So the whole offseason, I was pretty much out in the field almost every day Monday through Friday, at least, just working. I’m glad that we’ve seen some good results so far, long season to go, and I’m excited for more.”

“We really saw it in the second half of last year, this is the guy that we saw from mid-June on,” Quatraro said about Witt. “He has his struggles at times just like anybody else but it doesn’t affect him, at least outwardly. He comes back to do his work the next day and he’s just ready to compete and that’s really what drives him.”

After going 15-2 against the Chicago White Sox, A’s, Los Angeles Angels, and Houston Astros, KC faces a 23-game stretch where they play the Tampa Bay Rays, Guardians, San Diego PadresSeattle MarinersNew York Yankees, and Los Angeles Dodgers.

There are bullpen concerns with the Royals having some blown leads late in games and only four players have an on-base percentage over .300: Perez, Witt, Pasquantino, and third baseman Maikel Garcia.

But they hope the steady pitching and being able to grind out games late can continue their winning ways.

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“We’ve got a lot of guys that will get 0-2 and then find a way to 3-2. Even if you don’t win the bat, it’s just putting extra pitches on a guy,” Pasquantino said. “You’re just building data all the time on these guys. So I think it’s just been it’s been really good for us to get the pitching and then you know, get the timely offensive. We’ve had to just kind of put things together.

“We’re staying in ballgames. As an offense we’ve turned it up the past few days, specifically against starters, which has been great,” Pasqauntino said. “So I think it’s just one of those things is so far we’ve been a tough team to put away. Feels like we’re always in the game and it’s been good.”

The Royals hit the road for a three-game series against the Rays starting on Friday and a four-game series against division foe Minnesota Twins before coming back home to Kauffman Stadium to face the Padres starting on Friday, May 31.

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