Listless offense, poor pitching, and the bandbox status of Minute Maid Park in Houston were the root causes of Kansas City's 6-1 loss to the Astros, ending the Royals' four-game winning streak. Joe Blanton desperately quested for the strike zone, walking four and allowing five hits, including a home run to Jose Altuve. Unable to get through even three innings, Blanton was supplanted by Brandon Finnegan with one out left in the third inning. The Royals B-team offense, which featured Christian Colon at shortstop, Jarrod Dyson at center field, and Eric Hosmer on the bench failed to execute against an excellent outing by Astros starter Lance McCullers.
Blanton's day began well enough, as the spot-starter began with a quick, one-two-three inning. However, a sudden lack of control gripped the fair-haired, high-socked gentleman. After an infield single to Luis Valbuena and a Chris Carter strikeout, Blanton consecutively walked Jon Singleton, Preston Tucker, and Domingo Santana to yield the first run. Jason Castro scored Singleton with a lazy sacrifice fly to center field and the Astros were up 2-0.
The third inning was worse to Blanton. Altuve led off with the aforementioned home run to left field, crushing a ball up in the zone. A Valbuena single set up another Singleton walk and a Tucker single to score Valbuena. Dave Eiland ventured to the mound, but Blanton was unaffected. Blanton left another mistake pitch over the plate and Santana singled to make it 5-0 Houston. Ned Yost removed Blanton and inserted Finnegan, who struck out Castro on three pitches to end the threat.
Still, the Royals offense made sure that five runs was plenty. Dyson led off the first inning with a solid line-drive double to right field. Despite a (very fast) man on second with no outs, the Royals did not score. In the second inning, Alex Gordon singled and moved to second on an Alex Rios groundout. Again, with one out in the inning, he was not advanced and did not score. Until the seventh inning, when Salvador Perez' bizarre blend of power and total fear of plate discipline somehow resulted in yet another home run and put Kansas City on the board, the Royals offense went through the motions without results.
Other than the Perez homer, the game was thoroughly forgettable. Dyson was Perez' lone offensive brother tonight, as the speedy outfielder worked two walks in addition to his leadoff double. Colon turned in another poor performance at the plate, and is hitting below .150 in his last 10 games without any power. Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and Omar Infante were hitless. Though Finnegan worked through 3.1 innings, doing a huge favor for the rest of the bullpen, he walked two in that short frame and generally looks lost and distant compared to the ice-veined fireballer he was down the stretch last year. Jason Frasor struggled in garbage time but did not yield any additional runs.
Tomorrow, the Royals look to get back on track by sending Danny Duffy to the plate against the Ace Astro, Dallas Keuchel. With 13 days remaining until the All-Star Break, Kansas City will play 13 games, but will at least return home this Thursday.