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May 12, 2024 9:26 am

‘Prepared’ Royals look for series win vs. Angels

dairon blanco royals

Chances are outfielder Dairon Blanco will not be in the starting lineup for the Kansas City Royals as they close a four-game series on Sunday afternoon against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, Calif. But that doesn’t mean Blanco won’t have an impact on the game.

Blanco has started just eight of the Royals’ 41 games this season, but he has played in 26 games, providing a late-inning luxury for manager Matt Quatraro.

Blanco’s speed makes him a threat on the base paths and a solid defensive outfielder in any of the three outfield spots.

But his best game of the season came on Thursday in the series opener against the Angels. He made a rare start and did something accomplished just once previously in the past 50 years.

Blanco went 3-for-3 with a homer, double, bunt single, two stolen bases and four runs scored in the Royals’ 10-4 victory. The only other player to have a homer, double, bunt single and two steals in a game in the past half-century was the Rockies’ Larry Walker on Aug. 25, 1996.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m starting or (coming in) late,” Blanco said through an interpreter. “I’m always prepared. I keep working hard, and every time I get the opportunity to do it, it’s just a matter of being ready.”

Blanco has 10 stolen bases, ranking second on the team behind Bobby Witt Jr.’s 15. Witt had two steals in the Royals’ 9-3 loss on Saturday, which followed two wins against the Angels.

As a late-inning pinch runner and/or defensive replacement, Blanco does not get many at-bats — he’s 9-for-34 (.265) with a .783 OPS. Quatraro rewarded Blanco’s performance Thursday with a start on Friday, but he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. He did not play in Saturday’s game.

“It is a balance, and clearly if we think he’s going to give us a big upgrade, he needs to play more,” Quatraro said. “We try to do the best we can of trying to figure out the right time to play guys and what the best matchups are.

“He always brings energy. We know there is something there, and it’s a matter of whether we decide if it’s a good night for him or not.”

Right-hander Seth Lugo (5-1, 1.74 ERA) will make his ninth start of the season for Kansas City. He is 0-0 with a 1.23 ERA in two career games (one start) versus Los Angeles.

“We put some good at-bats together in some situations when we certainly needed it,” Washington said. “I just want them to learn how to sustain it. If they can sustain it, then we can become a very consistent team.”

Left-hander Patrick Sandoval (2-5, 4.85) will make his ninth start of the year for the Angels. Sandoval, the Angels’ Opening Day starter, has been a disappointment so far in 2024, although he is coming off his best performance of the season. Sandoval threw seven scoreless innings, allowing three hits and walking just one in a 9-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday.

“I’ve just got to know myself better and pitch like I did (against the Pirates) and be the better version of myself,” Sandoval said. “I’m capable of doing this.”

Sandoval has faced the Royals once in his career, and he earned a victory after he scattered four hits over seven scoreless innings.

Angels manager Ron Washington was encouraged Saturday by the performance of his team, which is 6-16 over the past 22 games.

“We put some good at-bats together in some situations when we certainly needed it,” Washington said. “I just want them to learn how to sustain it. If they can sustain it, then we can become a very consistent team.”

–Field Level Media

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