While the bias of recency colors the impression, multiple decades of ineptitude could lead even the most rational Royals' fan into the dank, hopeless cave of despair from whence he or she only recently emerged, wondering whether the Royals might ever score a run again. The legitimacy of these concerns was once well-founded.
Judging by the chasmic differences in talent between this lineup and the horrific iron-deficient offenses of yore built upon the reliably unstable foundation of cast-offs, has-[had-?]beens, and never-weres (think of Mike Jacobs, Neifi Perez, and Yuniesky Betancourt, and then try to muster up even a smidgen of carnal yearning--it's not possible and the flip-side of the World Series baby boom coin), the concerns about this Kansas City offense find their origins in the fearful but familiar heart of defeatism.
For five full innings, it seemed a foregone conclusion that the Royals would not score a run against Jeff Samardzija and the White Socks. Coming off the best start of his career, a Maddux, Samardzija retired nine straight Royals from the recording of the second out of the second inning through the first of the fifth. Base-runners seemed an impossibility, runs a pipe dream.
While held up early by the defense behind him, Royals' starter Johnny Cueto seemed an unlikely candidate to match Samardzija frame for scoreless frame. In the second, Lorenzo Cain robbed Trayce Thompson of a near-certain home run. The damage prevention on this play felt like it was much less a game-saving act of heroism than a postponement of the inevitable.
After a dink-and-doink rally reminiscent of the Royals' offense of 2014, Chicago plated their first run in the third featuring a walk and two consecutive singles, all coming with two outs.
In the fifth, the suspended fate owing to Lorenzo Cain's leaping grab at the wall in the second was finally realized as Adam Eaton stroked a dong into the bullpen in right field. Eaton's homer was one of the two-run variety and put the Pale Hoes up 3 - 0 heading to the top of the sixth.
Miraculously--surely in some way related to the Pope's recent visit to the United States--the Royals finally broke their 17-inning scoreless streak in the sixth, when Eric Hosmer--whose own relationship to God is well-established--hung the most majestic of dongs to the opposite field. A batter later, Kendrys Morales replicated the feat.
The most ardent of believers (or at least those most prone to reactionary mood swings) immediately began to wonder if the Royals were ever going to have an at-bat that didn't end in a home run.
That question was answered three strikes later when Samardzija struck out Mike Moustakas swinging.
The Royals headed to the bottom of the sixth down 3 - 2 with Cueto looking likely to pitch one more inning before turning the game over to the bullpen.
Cueto worked around a two-out walk in the sixth and turned the game over to Danny Duffy in the seventh. Like Cueto before him, Duffy worked around a base-runner, his coming from a lead-off single, keeping the Pail Hoes from adding to their run total for at least another inning.
Unfortunately the Royals' offense was running out of time. Alcides Escobar lucked into an infield single on a dribbler to the right side of the infield with two outs in the seventh. Ben Zobrist followed with an absolute screamer that looked certain to drive home Escobar, who was off on contact with two outs. Trayce Thompson, who was Cain's victim in the second, fully extended himself on a sure extra-base hit and tore the double from the air for an out every bit as spectacular as Cain's robbery of him five innings earlier.
The Royals threatened once again in the eighth--the Son of God reaching on a two-out single off of Matt Albers, and Zach Duke following his penmate's lead with a five-pitch walk of Kendrys Morales--but Mike Olt followed Thompson's example an inning earlier and ripped a 105-MPH screaming liner from Moustakas out of the air, again preserving the South Siders' one-run lead with a magnificent defensive play.
Such sterling play on defense from the hometown Pail Hose must have convinced Ned Yost that it was time to wave the white flag because Danny Duffy gave way to Joba Chamberlain. Facing Trayce Thompson, Chamberlain jumped ahead 1-2 before throwing three straight balls to put the leadoff runner aboard.
Whether Alexei Ramirez or anyone else was to follow was immaterial. Thompson was going to cross the plate as Chicago's fourth run.
Ramirez ripped a one-hopper to the wall in the gap in left-center, and Thompson crossed the plate with ease. Channeling his inner Rick Vaughn, Chamberlain uncorked a ridiculous wild pitch that was more than just a bit outside, advancing Ramirez to third on a pitch that would have been thrown above and behind the head of a right-handed batter by a distance more closely measurable in feet than inches.
Of course, "Wild Thing" proceeded to strike out the next two batters, J.B. Shuck looking and Olt swinging, but another run was added to the Royals' deficit, and the White Stalkings needed just three more outs to finish off the Royals with the bottom third of the lineup due up in the top of the ninth.
David Robertson induced consecutive pop flies from Salvador Perez and Alex Rios and then got Escobar looking for the final out of the night.
That the Royals managed two runs seemed the stuff of myth after last night and the bulk of tonight's proceedings. The entire offense seemed incapable of putting together anything resembling an organized attack. The notion of otters being released is so distant a memory as to render their initial existence a question needing hard proof for verification that it was not just the stuff of dreams.
The Royals dropped another half-game behind Toronto, who were rained out in Baltimore today. It looks increasingly likely that the Royals will face whoever comes out atop the American League West in the Division Series, though they may not score a run in the playoffs at their current production levels.
For those keeping track at home, the loss drops the Royals' record to 90-67, marking the first time that they have been 23 games over .500 since they went 18-11 to start the 2009 season.