The Kansas City Royals have had plenty of soulcrushing losses in my lifetime, so I think I'm more than qualified to state the obvious: Sunday's 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins was mind-numbingly painful to witness.
The game had every ingredient for a loss that makes you want to tear your hair out. First, you add in a strong performance from your starting pitcher. Jason Vargas turned in his third successful start in a Kansas City uniform, allowing two runs over seven innings. The southpaw surrendered five hits and three walks, but managed to stay out of trouble until the bottom of the seventh.
Vargas issued a one-out walk to Jason Kubel in the seventh, then gave up a two-run bomb to Josmil Pinto. Vargas hung a 3-1 breaking ball, and Pinto jumped all over the pitch to give Minnesota a 2-0 advantage.
The next key ingredient in a devastating loss is a late comeback that (briefly) restores your faith in the team. The Royals offense had been muted by Kevin Correia for seven innings, but plated three runs in the top of the eighth to take the lead. Mike Moustakas led off the inning with a walk, then Lorenzo Cain followed with a single, putting two runners on for Alcides Escobar.
Escobar dropped a nice bunt down the third base line that Trevor Plouffe should have picked up, but Plouffe attempted to make a highlight reel play, throwing the ball into rightfield instead. Moose scored and Cain advanced to third on the error.
Norichika Aoki followed with a beautiful safety squeeze against reliever Brian Duensing, driving in Cain and advancing Escobar to second base. Eric Hosmer drove in Escobar with a two-out double to dead center, giving the Royals a brief advantage.
Of course, the most important element of a terrible defeat is a blown save by the bullpen, with some horrendous defense thrown in for good measure. Aaron Crow started the top of the eighth and promptly walked the first two batters, which caused Ned Yost to bring in Wade Davis to put out the fire. Davis gave Plouffe a free pass for good measure, loading the bases for Joe Mauer.
Davis fell behind Mauer 3-1, but ended up recording a clutch swinging strikeout for the first out of the inning. Chris Herrmann followed with a weak tapper back to the pitcher, which should have been an easy play at the plate and a possible inning-ending double play.
Big Trade Wade, however, had different ideas. He made a terrible throw on the play, throwing it low and well past Salvador Perez. Pedro Florimon easily scored, then Brian Dozier raced around third base towards home. Perez tossed the ball back to Davis, but Dozier snuck in under the tag to give the Twins a 4-3 lead. Adding insult to injury, Davis ended up striking out the last two hitters of the inning.
Sprinkle in some missed opportunities (Cain getting thrown out at home in the third inning) and the truly bizzare (Moustakas interfered with Kurt Suzuki attempting to catch an infield popout for the final out of the game), and you have yourself a wonderful shit sandwich that should taste all too familiar for Royals fans.
Kansas City is now 4-7, sits in last place in the AL Central, and has still only hit one home run as a team. It's way too early in the season to abandon ship, but it's definitely not too early to be frustrated with the performances we have seen so far.