Seth Lugo sets career-high in strikeouts in Royals win vs. Angels

Seth Lugo sets career-high in strikeouts in Royals win vs. Angels
Seth Lugo sets career-high in strikeouts in Royals win vs. Angels
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ANAHEIM — Although the season is far from over in mid-May, the Royals are playing enough winning baseball that where they are in the standings is starting to matter.

The fact that they could have taken over first place in the American League Central on Saturday night with a win — and then didn’t — stung. What’s different about this team in 2024 is how quickly they learn and move on from losses, and optimism surrounded them on Sunday with a chance to win the series.

And a big reason why? Their best starter — and one of the best in baseball this year — was taking the mound.

Seth Lugo rewarded his team’s confidence by tossing a gem: Eight innings of one-run ball, a career-high 12 strikeouts and no walks leading the Royals to a 4-2 win over the Angels to clinch a four-game series win this weekend at Angel Stadium. And while they remain a half-game behind first-place Cleveland, the fact that the standings matter as we trickle into late spring is another reminder of how far this team has come.

Nothing better encapsulates that difference than the pitching, which the Royals completely revamped this offseason. And Lugo, who signed a two-year, $30 million deal with the option for a third year, has been Kansas City’s best signing.

Lugo’s ERA is down to 1.66 across nine starts this year, the best in the AL and third in MLB. Eight of those outings have been quality starts. His six wins and 59 2/3 innings also rank first in the AL.

On Sunday, Lugo became the fourth Royals pitcher to strike out 12 batters with zero walks, joining Mike Montgomery (2019), Zack Greinke (2010) and Luke Hochevar (2009).

Of those four, only Lugo and Greinke went eight innings.

“Pitching around guys wasn’t quite part of [the game plan],” Lugo said. “Not walking anybody was huge, and really, I was executing pitches and focusing on that.”

Lugo utilized eight different pitches throughout the game to keep the Angels off balance. He was in the zone with most of them and relied on his signature curveball for his putaway pitch, generating 18 whiffs on 13 swings.

His seven strikeouts on that pitch were by far the most of any outing in his career.

“When one pitch isn’t working, or I see a certain swing or approach from the other team, then I have other options to go to,” Lugo said. “I never feel cornered like I have to be too fine on the corners. I can stay in the zone and attack hitters.”

Lugo generated 43 whiffs and called strikes (38%), which is tied for third-most by a Royals pitcher in a game in the pitch-tracking era (since 2008, playoffs included), behind Danny Duffy (49) and Ervin Santana ( 44).

Facing another tough lefty with a good changeup in Angels starter Patrick Sandoval, the Royals strung together five consecutive hits in the fourth, and, in a left-on-left matchup, Michael Massey executed a squeeze play with Dairon Blanco on third for a four -run inning.

That’s all the Royals needed with Lugo on the mound.

“Last night was tough, but … after they saw a bunch of changeups yesterday, and they got another lefty with some pretty good changeups today, I knew if I could hold [the Angels] off, the offense would get going,” Lugo said. “And they did.”

Lugo allowed one run in the sixth and was at 90 pitches, but he needed just eight pitches to get through the seventh. Manager Matt Quatraro sent him back out for the eighth, knowing how the pitcher felt and that he’ll get an extra day of rest through the next turn in the rotation with Thursday’s off day.

“His command of the ball, everything is right there,” Quatraro said. “So they have to honor every pitch, and he changes it up so much. … Just the confidence you have when he’s out there, it feels like he’s in total control all the time.”

Reliever John Schreiber was warming up in the ‘pen in case a batter reached base.

Lugo don’t believe let it happen. His first sinker he threw in the eighth was 89 mph, three mph down from his average. So he adjusted with his backside to get the velocity back up. The next fastball he threw was back up to 94.

“Kept those mechanics and felt good the rest of the way,” Lugo said.

On Lugo’s 112th pitch, he dropped his hammer into the zone for Mickey Moniak, who struck out looking for Lugo’s 12th strikeout.

“He’s reliable,” Massey said. “He throws strikes. He works quick. He’s nasty. There’s no other way to put it.”

The article is in Czech

Tags: Seth Lugo sets careerhigh strikeouts Royals win Angels

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