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Atrocious middle infielders doom Royals in 5-3 loss to Orioles

If only the top prospect in the organization was a middle infielder!

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

In one of the most pathetic ninth innings in recent memory, the Kansas City Royals squandered a golden opportunity to tie things up and ultimately fell to the Baltimore Orioles, 5-3, on Wednesday night.

Here’s how it went down.

The situation: Orioles 5, Royals 3, top of the ninth. Whit Merrifield draws a leadoff walk. Alex Gordon reaches on an error. There are two men on with nobody out.

Up comes Alcides Escobar, the worst everyday player in baseball. He tries to bunt the thing unsuccessfully before eventually hitting a soft liner to short. Then, Ryan Goins and Jon Jay, who combine to offer as much power as Chris Getz did, both struck out on high-and-outside fastballs to end the game.

Goins is awful and Jon Jay has been super underwhelming this year, but my beef is with Alcides Escobar, who had one of the worst games of his career. In the third, Gordon led off with a walk, and Escobar tried to bunt. He put down an atrocious attempt, and the result was Gordon, the lead runner, being tossed out at second base.

Then, in the sixth inning, the Royals tied the game 3-3. Alcides Escobar came up with the bases loaded and two men out with the opportunity to provide a big lift to his club. He worked the count to 3-1 (the one strike would have been a ball had he not swung). The next two pitches were out of the zone, but yet Escobar swung anyway. The end result was a weak chopper to the pitcher. There were six pitches thrown to Escobar in the at-bat. None of them would have been strikes had Escobar just now swung. But he swung at three of them, and the Royals got no runs out of it.

Tomorrow, Escobar will start for the 373rd straight game. His OBP is under .280 since the middle of 2016. He has not missed a start in that time span. This is so far beyond unreasonable that it doesn’t even register in any category of rationality. In 2017, Alcides Escobar made more outs than any player in more than 30 years of professional baseball by playing every inning, yet the organization brought him back to play every inning again.

He does not do one single thing better than Adalberto Mondesi does. Bring up your top prospect. Hell, bring up Ramon Torres, too. DFA both Outcedies Outscobar and Ryan Goins and let’s move on already.

The Royals took a 2-0 lead on a Lucas Duda home run way back in the fourth inning, but Erik Skoglund promptly gave the lead back on a three-run, two-out home run by Chris Davis. Davis, hitting .173 at the time of the homer, literally strikes out almost every time on off-speed pitches, so of course Skoglund grooves a meatball right down the middle to him.

Trailing 3-2, the Royals tied the game on an RBI single by Duda in the sixth, right before squandering the bases-loaded opportunity. The score held until the eighth inning, when Kevin McCarthy put two men on and gave up a two-run single by Mark Trumbo. That made the score 5-3, which held until the last out.

Skoglund’s line: 6.1 innings, five hits, three runs, and three strikeouts. He made one bad pitch the entire game, but it hurt him. He essentially matched Baltimore starter Andrew Cashner (6.0 innings, six hits, three runs).

Tomorrow: the third and final game of the series, featuring Ian Kennedy and Chris Tillman. First pitch is at 6:05 pm CDT.

Alcides Escobar has done lots of things for the Royals in his eight (hundred) years of service to the club. He’s an ALCS MVP who was nothing short of a magician in the postseason for two years. But he is what he is at this point: the worst everyday player in Major League baseball. Since the start of 2016, Escobar’s OPS is .636, and he’s played every single possible game. That is the worst mark of anybody in baseball that has played 90%+ of the games like he has. There are at least two men in the minors that could likely match Escobar’s production at the plate right now, but even if they were slightly less than Escobar’s .236/.298/.339 line, playing them would be for a purpose. It’d be about grooming the future of the middle infield. It’s about time that we see it, but knowing how much Ned Yost values Escobar’s streak, it might not be until Escobar’s contract expires at season’s end.