Jordan Lyles’ best start of 2023 wasted by disastrous 8th for Kansas City Royals

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Kansas City Royals starter Jordan Lyles has been stuck on his own roller coaster this season. There have been ups and downs in a shaky 2023 campaign.

Lyles threw a complete game against the Chicago White Sox. He recorded nine strikeouts against the Toronto Blue Jays in April. However, there have been many rough moments. In his last three starts before Friday, Lyles had allowed 16 earned runs and surrendered three home runs.

The result: an 0-9 record and a ghastly 7.30 ERA this season.

On Friday, Lyles took the first step in escaping his personal wild ride. He was sharp against the Colorado Rockies at Kauffman Stadium. Lyles pitched five innings and struck out eight batters. He allowed two hits and one earned run.

The only problem? The Royals fell 7-2.

Royals manager Matt Quatraro lauded Lyles on his start. He said Lyles had strong command and it showed with his execution on the mound.

“He threw several really good changeups today and the velo (velocity) was up,” Quatraro said. “I thought he worked the ball up and down in the zone. So I thought it was a really positive outing.”

Lyles’ lone mistake came against Rockies third baseman Ryan McMahon. In the first inning, McMahon deposited a solo home run into the right-field seats.

“I left a cutter a little bit down as I wanted to go up and in,” Lyles said. “I yanked it a little bit and he was able to drop his bat head on it to put it over the wall.”

The Royals would quickly respond with two homers of their own. Edward Olivares continued his hot streak at Kauffman Stadium. He hit his fifth home run in the third inning. Meanwhile, Drew Waters, back from injury, recorded his first homer off Rockies starter Chase Anderson.

And that looked like enough ... until the disastrous eighth.

The Rockies scored six runs in the eighth inning. Royals relievers Carlos Hernandez and Nick Wittgren were hit hard in the frame. The Rockies collected five hits with Elias Diaz providing the major blow: a two-run double.

Here’s a look back at Friday’s game...

Jordan Lyles commands fastball in strong start

The first inning has not been kind to Jordan Lyles. This season, Lyles has allowed six homers within the first 15 pitches of a start.

Despite McMahon’s home run, Lyles proved he can rebound from a slow start. He proved it by shutting down the Rockies from innings 2-5.

He recorded all eight of his strikeouts in the middle frames. Lyles retired 12 of his last 14 batters before departing.

A lot of credit goes to his four-seam fastball. The pitch usually averages just shy of 91 miles per hour, but tonight it topped out at 93.9 mph. Lyles threw 40 fastballs and recorded 19 swings and nine whiffs.

“I felt like we had a decent amount of life on the fastball, especially to those lefties arm-side and up and away to them,” Lyles said. “(Catcher Salvador Perez) and I kept going to that pitch up and away, especially with two strikes.”

In addition to the fastball, Lyles worked in his sweeper and off-speed pitches. The formula kept the Rockies off balance as he showcased strong command around the strike zone.

“I thought we did a good job raising (the batters’ eye line) and going back and forth with the four-seam up and the breaking balls down,” Lyles said.

Drew Waters drills first homer of 2023 season

Royals outfielder Drew Waters has struggled since making his season debut May 26. Waters entered Friday’s action hitting .188 (3-for-16). He also recorded eight strikeouts and no walks during the span.

Waters reversed his fortunes in his first at-bat.

In the third inning, Waters hit a solo homer into the center-field seats. It was his first home run of the 2023 season. The blast traveled 419 feet and had a 107.3 exit velocity.

“I always hit with a similar approach,” Waters said. “I always sit on the fastball. Obviously you can slow down. You can’t ever speed up. I had an idea what he was trying to do. He threw the first pitch away for a ball. I had a feeling he was gonna go back to it. So he did, and I was ready for it.”

Waters admitted he is still looking to get comfortable at the plate. He has worked on improving his contact point in the batting cage recently.

“The more at-bats I continue to get, the more comfortable I’ll get,” Waters said.

What’s next: The Royals continue their series against the Rockies. Daniel Lynch will start Saturday’s game against Austin Gomber. Brady Singer will pitch in the series finale, facing Kyle Freeland.