New on Sports Illustrated: McBroom looming when Royals face Indians

August 31, 2020 at 11:35AM

The anomaly that is the 2020 baseball season has delivered many casualties, not the least of which is benchmark statistics.

Players who have reached "at least" numbers in consecutive seasons likely will see those streaks end.

That makes the record-setting season of Kansas City's Ryan McBroom even more remarkable. The first baseman, who made his major league debut last September after being acquired from the New York Yankees farm system, came with the reputation of being a power hitter. But he had to wait until this season to hit his first career home run after 75 at-bats without one in 2019.

So far in 2020, McBroom has five home runs, including three as a pinch-hitter. Three pinch-hit home runs are a Royals record for a season -- and a career. He did it in a span of 18 days.

"It's hard not to smile through this," McBroom said about his home-run streak. "It's been incredible. There are really no answers. There's no secret formula. I'm just having fun."

Royals manager Mike Matheny has been impressed.

"The ability to jump into that role is very rare," Matheny said. "To see what he's done so far is really very unique. The thing it comes down to is this guy can hit. The issue is how do we get him more consistent at-bats?"

McBroom is in a platoon at first base with Ryan O'Hearn, although Matheny has started him in the outfield on occasion to get his right-handed bat in the lineup. With the Cleveland Indians arriving for a three-game series beginning Monday, he probably won't be in the starting lineup with RHP Shane Bieber on the mound for the Indians.

Bieber is having an outstanding season for the Indians. His six wins (against no defeats), 1.35 ERA and 75 strikeouts all lead Major League Baseball. He was Cleveland's Opening Day starter against the Royals, going six scoreless innings July 24 when he allowed only four hits and one walk while striking out 14.

Bieber has struck out at least eight in all seven starts, including double-digits in five starts.

Maybe he's gotten to the point where he expects perfection every time out.

"I didn't feel right; I was fighting myself the whole way through," Bieber said after allowing two runs on four hits in six innings, with only 10 strikeouts Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins. "You can notice all those things, but at the end of the day you've got to compete. It took a little bit longer to figure it out than I would have liked. But eventually I got it down."

Bieber is 4-0 with a 4.33 ERA in his career against the Royals.

The Royals will counter with RHP Brad Keller (3-1, 2.08 ERA), who was dealt his first loss, and gave up his first earned runs, of the season in his last outing in St. Louis.

Keller was charged with five earned runs, including three after he exited, on six hits and three walks. He allowed 10 base runners in four innings pitched plus four batters, snapping a career high 17 2/3-inning scoreless streak.

He will be facing a division opponent for the first time this season after four straight interleague games. He's 2-1 with a 1.38 ERA in six appearances (four starts) against the Indians. He has 26 strikeouts in 26 career innings against Cleveland.

--Field Level Media

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