In the series finale, the Royals lose 8-5 to the Twins. They return to Kauffman Stadium for a set against the A's tomorrow.
This game was frustrating. So frustrating, in fact, that it reminded me of the 2004 Royals. Buoyed by a remarkable center fielder who impacted the game offensively and defensively, the Royals were unable to overcome a total breakdown of execution on all other fronts. The starting pitcher was tagged for 5 runs in a mere three innings, defensive errors needlessly elongated painful stretches of time, and, outside of two bright spots, the offense dragged listlessly and without threat. Exacerbating the issue was the enemy--a woeful team, barely able to field a major league roster which will almost certainly exceed 90 losses this year, a team with an awful bullpen that yet seemed untouchable to the defending American League Champions.
Of course, this isn't 2004, for a million positive reasons. For one day, though, it sure felt like it.
After specifically noting in the game thread that extra base hits are pretty important, the Royals got off to a fantastic start in the first inning. The alien that has taken over Mike Moustakas' body singled to left field. Lorenzo Cain promptly blasted a cannon of a home run into the left field seats in the next at-bat, quickly giving the Royals a 2-0 lead. Tuesday afternoon's beatdown seemed to echo through the park.
Fortunately for the Twins, Jason Vargas had other plans. In the bottom of the second inning, Brian Dozier led off with a single. Kennys Vargas pumped a fastball into the seats and, just like that, the score tied at 2. In the bottom of the third inning, following a Salvador Perez double in the top half which scored Cain and gave the Royals a 3-2 lead, Vargas again wavered. Vargas allowed three hits and a walk in the inning, and the Twins advanced to a 4-3 lead. In Vargas' defense, he was backed by uncharacteristically poor defensive miscues from the Royals. Jarrod Dyson, who had previously played a mere two innings in right field, misplayed a Torii Hunter ball into a ground-rule double. Later, Moustakas and Eric Hosmer combined for a poor throw-and-scoop to allow Hunter to score. Fortunately, Cain was unaffected and pulled off a beautiful grab during the same inning.
Vargas' day was over before he recorded a single out in the fourth inning. Shane Robinson, Danny Santana, Hunter, and Joe Mauer hit consecutive singles to score an additional run; Yost then pulled Vargas. Jason Frasor, who has been exceptional in this young season, escaped the bind through a Dozier lineout and a Vargas double play.
The Royals offense, significantly limited with backups Dyson, Paulo Orlando, and Christian Colon playing in place of their injured/resting counterparts, was absolutely horrible from the fourth inning on. The Royals offense did not accrue a single hit after the third inning until the top of the ninth, when the Royals mounted a valiant comeback. The additional runs did not matter
In the end, the box score looks slightly more gruesome than it could have been. Down two runs, the Royals went with a combination of Chris Young, long man who hasn't been good since 2008, and Ryan Madson, who hasn't pitched in the MLB since 2011. The two combined to give up an additional 3 runs in the eighth inning.
This isn't the end of the world by any stretch of the imagination. Though the game caused much gnashing of teeth, the Royals are still 7-2 and their wins have been decisive. The talent is clearly there. If anything, this game (and last night's game) clearly exposed this team's weaknesses. Despite the fun beginning, this team will often struggle to score, and rotation and position depth is troubling.
These games happen. But we have to carry on. These Royals will not cease to be fascinating.