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Orioles-Royals opener features top two picks from 2019 draft

Sportsnaut
May 28, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Royals shortstop Bobby Witt (7) celebrates scoring a run against the Minnesota Twins with teammates in the dugout during the seventh inning at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time to see who was right three years ago.

When the Kansas City Royals play host to the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday in the opener of a four-game series, they will bring the top two draft picks from the 2019 draft with them.

Baltimore chose Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman first overall. With the next selection, the Royals picked high school infielder Bobby Witt Jr.

Both players made their major league debuts this year. Witt was in the Royals’ Opening Day starting lineup, while Rutschman played his first game on May 21.

The Orioles arrive in Kansas City after their scheduled Wednesday home game against the Chicago Cubs was postponed because of rain. Baltimore beat Chicago 9-3 on Tuesday in what ended up as the only game in the “series.”

The Royals defeated the visiting Toronto Blue Jays 8-4 on Wednesday, snapping a three-game skid in which they did not score a run in each of the past two.

Witt, who entered play Wednesday with just two hits in his past 33 at-bats, went 2-for-4 with two runs and a walk to raise his average to .221. He started his rookie season in a slump but now leads the team in doubles (13), triples (three), RBIs (28) and stolen bases (eight) while ranking second in home runs (seven).

Rutschman has also begun slowly. He is hitting just .145 (8-for-55) with a .430 OPS through his first 14 games. He has yet to drive in a run. There is plenty of time for that to change, and the Orioles aren’t worried.

“It’s such a small sample right now,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “You can’t worry about the results. It’s a tough level to break into, and he’s going to be just fine. We just need to be patient and stay positive and support him.”

The Thursday pitching matchup will feature Baltimore right-hander Jordan Lyles (3-4, 4.50 ERA) and Kansas City left-hander Kris Bubic (0-3, 9.33).

Lyles is coming off a no-decision against the Seattle Mariners on June 2, when he allowed five runs (four earned) on nine hits in five-plus innings.

He owns a 3-1 record and a 2.25 ERA in six career starts against the Royals. Lyles got a no-decision against Kansas City on May 8 when he gave up four runs (two earned) in 7 1/3 innings.

Bubic has struggled all season, at one point landing him in Triple-A Omaha. However, in his return to the majors on Saturday, Bubic threw five shutout innings in a no-decision as the Royals emerged with a 6-0 victory over the Houston Astros. He scattered five hits and three walks, putting himself into trouble and getting himself out of it.

“The defense was great and bailed me out of a lot of situations,” Bubic said postgame. “I was kind of tiptoeing and made pitches when we needed it the most. In the spots I needed it, the changeup worked, and I don’t think it’s a secret. The fastball was OK, the breaking ball was not really there.

“Like I said, the whole thing was good enough, and I’m not going to beat myself up about it.”

Bubic has faced the Orioles twice, including one start, going 0-0 with a 2.38 ERA.

–Field Level Media