It is the first day in the month of August, in the year of our Lord 2017. The Kansas City Royals stand at 55-50, owners of the second Wild Card playoff spot, and are only three games behind the American League Central-leading Cleveland Indians.
So while the Royals are in a good spot overall, a baseball season is not a baseball season without stretches of frustration. Kansas City is in one of those stretches right now. Tonight, the Baltimore Orioles crushed the Royals to the tune of a 7-2 beatdown. The Royals have now lost two in a row and three of their last four games.
The main reason for the Royals’ malaise can be summed up in one word: offense. Or, to be more accurate, two words: terrible offense. In yesterday’s walkoff loss to the Orioles, Kansas City scraped one run out of their seven baserunners, a trio of double plays ruining much of the offense.
Tonight’s offensive culprit was much simpler, though equally problematic. With only five hits and one walk against six strikeouts, it’s very difficult to score runs.
And for the second consecutive evening, the Royals failed to flex their muscles against a struggling pitcher. Dylan Bundy came into this game with a 4.53 ERA and a 5.03 FIP, but had an 8.41 ERA over his last four starts, none of which lasted longer than six innings. Bundy stymied the Royals, tossing a full eight innings and only allowing three singles and a walk for one run. Kansas City scored that run in the third inning with significant help from Baltimore catcher Wellington Castillo, who bounced a throw past second base in an attempt to nab Alex Gordon at second base. Gordon kept running to third base, and then Whit Merrifield singled him home. Kansas City grabbed another run in the garbage time ninth inning, as Salvador Perez crushed a deep liner to score Melky Cabrera.
It’s difficult to win when you score only one or two runs. The Royals’ April is proof enough of that.
The corollary to that statement is that it is also difficult to win when your starter craps the bed, and Ian Kennedy did that for the Royals. Kennedy immediately coughed up a pair of runs in his very first frame, then gave up another in the fourth inning. Kennedy started pitching the fifth inning, but after bleeding a quick single Ned Yost pulled out an equally quick hook. Scott Alexander was unable to clean up the inning, and allowed Kennedy’s baserunner and another pair to score. But any time in which your starter only tosses four innings and gives up eight hits and a walk while only striking out two, resulting in four earned runs, you’re chances of winning take a big hit.
Tomorrow, the Royals will send All-Star Jason Vargas to the mound and attempt to staunch the bleeding. They will play a fourth game in Baltimore on Thursday and then will travel back to the blessed confines of Kauffman Stadium Friday for a series against the Seattle Mariners.