The Kansas City Royals are the defending World Series champions. At times this year, they've played just like the 2015 team did: crisp, sharp, and productive.
On Tuesday night, the Royals paid tribute to the 2005 team that lost 106 games. One of the sloppiest, ugliest, and worst all-around games in recent memory resulted in a 9-4 victory for the Los Angeles Angels. For just the second time this year, the Royals have lost consecutive games.
Things started off well for Kansas City, as Mike Moustakas clobbered his seventh home run of the year off of slowball-throwing Jered Weaver. The blast tied him with Josh Donaldson for the American League lead. Last year, Moustakas didn't hit his seventh homer until June 24. Moustakas' patient approach has made him arguably the Royals' best all-around hitter thus far in 2016. In the next inning, Jarrod Dyson drove an RBI double down the right-field line to double Kansas City's lead to 2-0.
After working out of a bases loaded jam in the first inning, Edinson Volquez got into the same situation in the second, and the Angels made him pay. Rafael Ortega drove in a run on a groundout, and Mike Trout drove in two with a two-out single to right field. After two innings, the Angels led 3-2.
Kansas City grabbed the lead back in the fourth inning when Alex Gordon, Omar Infante and Dyson all hit doubles, the last two of which plating runs. But despite having four runs through four innings off of Weaver, the Royals were leaving a lot of opportunities out there. In the next inning, they would pay for them.
Volquez fell apart in the fifth, but it wasn't entirely his fault. With two on and one out, he got C.J. Cron to hit a chopper to Infante. It appeared to be an inning-ending double play ball. Infante booted the ball, and while it was scored as an infield hit, it loaded the bases for Carlos Perez, who lined a single to center field to plate two, re-giving the Angels a lead at 5-4. The next batter was former Royal Johnny Giavotella, the typically light-hitting second baseman, but he unloaded on a hanging curve and pummeled it over the left-field wall. The three-run home run provided the dagger, and everybody in the stadium new it. The five-run fifth gave the Angels an 8-4 lead.
Things worsened for Kansas City in the seventh. Giavotella, hitting .136 entering the game, blooped a double into right field for his third hit of the night. He scored the Angels' ninth run when Escobar booted a ground ball to short, resulting in his team-leading fourth error of the year.
The Royals' offense went quickly and quietly in the last three innings. On the pitching end, Danny Duffy, Joakim Soria, and Chien-Ming Wang handled the seventh, eighth, and ninth frames.
Volquez' final line is ugly: a career-worst 12 hits and eight runs allowed in just 5.0 innings. He didn't have his best stuff and had to overcome an egrigious night from his defense, save for one brilliant, run-saving catch by Alex Gordon in the second inning. He struck out just three and walked two. It is worth noting that of his 12 hits allowed, just one of them went for extra bases. It took him 99 pitches to record 15 outs. He took the loss in this game, his first of the year. Volquez is now 3-1.
The winning pitcher was Weaver, but he wasn't particularly good, either. He went six innings and gave up four runs, which easily could have been worse. He is 3-0.
We'll call this "Tribute to the 2005 Royals" night at Angel Stadium. While the Royals were only charged with one official error, it easily could have been three or four. They were just 3-for-15 with men on base in the last seven innings. They hit into three double plays. Combine that with the 9:05 pm start time in Kansas City, and you're looking at one of the most hideous, tiring games in recent history of Royals baseball.
The surging Chicago White Sox are an AL-best 15-6, meaning that the Royals are 2.5 games back of first place for the first time since 2014. The furthest Kansas City was out of first place last year was a single game.
The last two days have been frustrating, but the Royals are still 12-8, good enough for the second-best record in the American League. Any Kansas City fans up in arms about the team's start should look at the Houston Astros, who came into this year with lofty expectations but have stumbled out of the gates to a 6-15 record. Tonight, they lost 11-1 and catcher Erik Kratz, a former Royal, pitched at the back end of the blowout. Until Drew Butera is called upon to pitch in a game, it might be best to pump the breaks on the "disappointing start" comments.
Up next: the Royals will try to avoid being swept for the first time in 2016 by sending Chris Young (1-3, 6.41 ERA) to the hill tomorrow night. He is coming off of his best performance of the year. Opposing him is Nick Tropeano (1-0, 1.69).