Glenn Sparkman and Kelvin Gutierrez were hanging out at Triple-A Omaha last weekend, the career reliever and young third baseman eagerly awaiting a call from the Kansas City Royals.
They both got it. And they both made the most of it.
Sparkman was recalled on Wednesday to start the second game of a doubleheader against Tampa Bay, and he merely breezed through seven innings of three-hit ball while outpitching reigning AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell in an 8-0 victory. Gutierrez hit his first homer in the second game to go with an RBI in the first, which Kansas City took by a 3-2 score.
In the opener, Adalberto Mondesi hit a two-run homer to highlight a three-run first inning for Kansas City, and Jacob Junis and the bullpen held on the rest of the way. Mondesi also drove in a run in the second game to cap a big afternoon, while Gutierrez’s homer off the foul pole helped him match a Royals record with seven RBI in his first five games.
It was the first time the Royals swept a doubleheader since July 7, 2015, when a team that would reach its second straight World Series also accomplished the feat against the Rays.
The sweep was especially eye-opening given Tampa Bay was coming off a club-record 19 wins through April, and the Royals had stumbled into the day having lost eight of their last 10.
Junis (3-2) won his second consecutive start , both against the Rays, by allowing two runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings in the opener. The young pitcher walked two and struck out two.
The Royals jumped on Rays opener Ryne Stanek (0-1) when Whit Merrifield led off with a double and stole third before Mondesi drilled his fourth homer this season to right. Alex Gordon walked and later scored as the first four batters reached safely.
Ian Kennedy worked two scoreless innings for his second save in three chances.
The Royals kept rolling in the second game, getting the first of two RBI singles by Jorge Soler and Gutierrez’s homer to stake them to a 3-0 lead against Snell after the first inning.
Kansas City added another run in the third before a four-run fourth inning sent Snell to the clubhouse. The first six batters reached base in the frame on four hits and a pair of walks.
Billy Hamilton chased Snell (2-3) with an RBI single in the fourth, the third straight batter to reach to start the inning. By the time all three scored, Snell had allowed seven runs on six hits and three walks in his second start since a 10-day layoff for a broken toe.
“It was uncharacteristic,” Cash said. “He just never could get it right, for whatever reason.”