On July 28, 2005, in Seattle, Washington, a 23-year old shortstop made his Major League debut, playing second base and batting eighth for the hometown Mariners in a one-run loss to the Cleveland Indians. It isn't likely that many Kansas Citians were watching that game, since there was no way to anticipate the role that Yuniesky Betancourt would one day play in our baseballing lives.
But, since you're a Royals fan, there is a reasonably good chance that you were watching the begining of something else momentus on that night. At the opposite end of the country, Buddy Bell sent Kyle Snyder out to the mound in Tropicana Field to face a team that was still called the "Devil Rays," and which still basically sucked. Sure, they had Carl Crawford in the outfield and Scott Kazmir on the mound, but that Tampa team was sitting in the AL East cellar with a late-season record of 37 and 66.
The contest started well for the Royals, with a two-run double from Sweeney in the top of the first, followed by hits from Murphy and DeJesus in front of a home run from Chip Ambres. Snyder gave up single runs in the bottom of the second and fourth innings, to take a 5-2 lead into the bottom of the fifth. But that's when it fell apart for Kyle. He gave up five in the fifth, effectively ending the game. Snyder eventually got out of the inning, but couldn't record an out in the sixth. Instead, Snyder put two runners on before handing the ball to Jimmy Gobble, who promptly allowed both to cross the plate, along with another tally, scored on a wild pitch. That left the score at 10 to 5, which is where it remained.
The Devil Rays, who were on their way to a last-place finish in the East (with a 67-95 record) would proceed to sweep the Royals in a four-game set that weekend. And, for more than three weeks, Kansas City would not win a single game. The nineteen-game losing streak of 2005 included a trip to Boston and a homestand against the A's, Indians and Tigers, before heading back out to Seattle and Oakland, where the losing eventually ended.
Many of the individual games, in hindsight, are hardly remembered. On August 5th, for instance, Zack Greinke took the mound and pitched seven innings against the A's. He plunked Jason Kendall once along the way and gave up three runs before turning over a one-run lead to the bullpen, which Jeremy Affeldt promptly surrendered. Then they went out the next night and lost by the score of 16 to 1. And, the night after that, by 11 to nothing.
But that wasn't the worst. On August 9th, as many of you will remember, Mac the Ninth took the mound with a 7 to 2 lead over the visiting Indians. Surely, you thought, surely, the streak is over. But Mac started giving up hits, and the lead started to evaporate. Fortunately, the Indians had this guy named Jeff Liefer on their roster, and with MacDougal still clinging to a one-run lead with two outs in the ninth, he stepped to the plate and lofted a fly ball to left field. Chip Ambres settled in under that one, and... well, you know what happened. As Denny called it over the air: "He dropped it. Yes, he did." When the dust settled, the Tribe had put eleven runs on the board in the ninth, and the hometown nine simply slunk off the field without a single hit in the bottom half of the inning.
There were also some close games during the streak. On August 14, there was a Sunday double-header in which the first game was tied into the ninth inning before Ambiorix Burgos blew it. Then in the second game, Jose Lima went nine innings, giving up just one run on five hits to earn the loss in a 1-0 affair. The next night, the team went to Seattle to face a Mariner-lineup that included both Yuni and the Spork. Willie had a hit that night, but Yuni went 0 for 4. And the Royals lost. And then they lost again on the 16th, and again the next night.
The streak finally ended with an improbable Mike Wood victory over Barry Zito. And there it stood: nineteen games in a row. The Royals also endured a 13-game streak in 2006 (from May 12 to May 25), and a pair of 12-game streaks (May 19 to May 30, 2008 and June 28 to July 13, 1997).
As of tonight, the 2012 Kansas City Royals have assembled an eleven-game losing streak. This current streak is in a three-way tie for the fifth longest in club history. The other eleven-game streaks occurred in April of 2006 and in June/July of 1986. In order to avoid setting a new franchise record, the Royals have to win a game sometime during the upcoming road trip. So, mark it on your calendar: Wednesday, May 2, in Detroit--if it comes to that--would be loss number 20.
Now, the odds are actually pretty good that there will have to be a win sandwiched in there somewhere. It is just freakish to lose this many games in a row.
Also, Chip Ambres was right under that ball.