Daniel Lynch has been the best of the Kansas City Royals' four first-round picks from the 2018 draft. The Royals need him to prove it once again as they host the Minnesota Twins for the first of a three-game series Friday.
The Twins will hand the ball to left-hander Devin Smeltzer (0-0, 1.80 ERA)to face Lynch (2-2, 3.30).
The Twins come into the game after an off day, while the Royals fell to the White Sox 7-4 Thursday afternoon as Chicago claimed a rare five-game series 3-2.
Carlos Hernandez didn't take the loss, but he may have lost his spot in the starting rotation. Hernandez earned the fifth starter spot out of spring training, but he has not pitched well in his seven starts. He gave up three earned runs in three-plus innings against Chicago and lowered his ERA to 9.10.
With Brady Singer throwing a gem in his last outing with seven shutout innings in the second game of Tuesday's doubleheader, Hernandez may find himself in the bullpen or in Triple-A Omaha.
Lynch is secure in his spot in the rotation. After allowing six runs in his first start of the season, he has allowed just five earned runs in the last 25 innings. He's had three scoreless outings in his past six starts.
He allowed just three hits in 5 1/3 innings in his last start in Colorado. He did it by mixing his pitches effectively.
"If they can get a comfortable swing off, there's a better chance, particularly here, of damage happening," he said. "I didn't really feel like I had great stuff today, but I just tried my best to mix and keep them off-balance. The slider is usually a lot more consistent location-wise, but when I put it in a good spot, it was a good pitch."
Manager Mike Matheny was impressed with Lynch's outing, especially because it came in hitter-friendly Colorado.
"Daniel was so good," Matheny said. "He was aggressive with his fastball. He threw in when he needed to and then just built on the confidence."
Lynch picked up his first win of the season with five scoreless innings against the Twins in April. He faced the Twins once in his debut season of 2021 but did not get a decision.
Smeltzer has faced the Royals five times in his four-year career, but only two of those came in starts. He ought to have some confidence because he's earned half his big-league wins against the Royals. He's 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA all-time against Kansas City.
In his last outing, his first appearance of the season with the Twins after being recalled from Triple-A St. Paul, he allowed one run on three hits in five innings against Cleveland. He loved the atmosphere at Target Field, giving credit to the fans for his solid performance.
"The crowd was awesome. I miss that," Smeltzer said. "You don't have that in Triple-A, no matter where you play. So, just having that environment and being back in a uniform is just awesome."
He won't have the crowd behind him in Kansas City, but he'll still be in the majors.
--Field Level Media