Losing can be contagious, and unfortunately Royals fans have seen a lot of losing streaks over the years. The Royals didn’t have a double-digit losing streak over their first 16 seasons, despite being an expansion club. But since they won a championship in 1985, they have had 10 double-digit losing streaks, seven of which happened in the last 15 years, including their current streak. Let’s take a look back at the misery.
June 27 - July 8, 1986 - 11 losses in a row
In 1986 the Royals were the defending champs, and by late June they were still 37-35, a few games out of first place. They embarked on a nine-game road trip to Minnesota, Cleveland, and Seattle and lost every game on the trip, then the first two games when they returned home against the Orioles. A week later, manager Dick Howser would be described as withdrawn and confused as he led the American League in the All-Star Game. Days later he stepped down as Royals manager after being diagnosed with a brain tumor that would ultimately cost him his life.
Soul-crushing loss: Loss #11. The Royals battled back in the 8th and 9th to tie the game and send it into extras. In the 13th, the Orioles loaded the bases with one out, but a routine grounder to short had a chance to end the threat. Greg Pryor was playing out of position at short due to injuries, and threw the ball away to allow two runs to score in an 8-4 loss.
How it ended: Danny Jackson and Bud Black combined on a three-hit shutout in a 3-0 win over Baltimore, with Jackson returning from the hospital a day after his wife gave birth.
Quote: “I’d have to say my wife was more overdue than the team.” -Danny Jackson
June 28 - July 13, 1997 - 12 losses in a row
The 1997 Royals had young players like Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye, and Mike Sweeney and added veterans Jay Bell, Jeff King, and Chili Davis around them in the hopes of contending. They were a few games out of first, hanging around .500 by late June when they dropped two at home against the Brewers. The Cubs and Indians swept them leading into the All-Star break, when manager Bob Boone was fired and replaced by Cubs coach Tony Muser. But Muser would have to wait awhile for his first win, dropping his first four contests to extend the losing streak to a then-club record 11 games.
Soul-crushing loss: Loss #12. White Sox pitchers couldn’t find the strike zone, walking 10 Royals hitters, but KC still trailed 7-5 in the seventh. Mike Sweeney doubled home a run and stood at second representing the tying run. Rather than play for a big inning, Muser had Johnny Damon sacrifice Sweeney to third. David Howard then missed a suicide squeeze, striking out and getting Sweeney thrown out easily at home to end the inning. The Royals would load the bases in the ninth on back-to-back walks, but Tom Goodwin swung at the first pitch and flied out to end the game in a 7-6 loss.
How it ended: Scott Cooper hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the 14th to beat the Milwaukee Brewers 2-1.
Quote: “When it does not work, it’s an ugly play...I’ll take the blame for that.” -Tony Muser
July 28 - August 19, 2005 - 19 losses in a row
The 2005 Royals were an unmitigated trainwreck, losing a franchise-record 106 games. Buddy Bell took over the team in late May after an unceremonious resignation by Tony Pena. The team responded to Bell, going 25-26 over the first 51 games on his watch. Then they got swept by the Devil Rays. Then the Red Sox. And the A’s. And Indians. And Tigers. And Mariners. They ultimately fell just two losses short of the American League record, but set a new standard for futility in Kansas City.
Soul-crushing loss: Loss #11. It is not the 16-1 loss to Oakland, or the game where a 19-year old Felix Hernandez dominated them, or the 1-0 loss to a bad Detroit team. It is the Chip Ambres game. The Royals were leading the Indians 7-2 in the ninth and brought in closer Mike MacDougal in to secure the victory. Mac gave up hits to five of the first six hitters he faced. Still, he recorded the second out with a 7-6 lead intact, and induced Jeff Liefer to lift a lazy fly ball to left at Chip Ambres, a play that ends the game about 99.9% of the time.
He dropped it. A run scored to tie the game. The floodgates inevitably opened. By the time the dust had settled, the Royals had allowed 11 runs in one inning and lost 13-7.
How it ended: Oakland’s bats mercifully went cold enough for the Royals to eke out a 2-1 win.
Quote: “This is the worst...I’ve ever been through this in my 10 or 11 years here. The absolute worst. I don’t ever remember anything like this.” -Mike Sweeney
April 9 - 21, 2006 - 11 losses in a row
Bell got his first full season with the Royals in 2006, and after starting out 2-2, the bottom fell out early. They were swept in Yankee Stadium - no surprise really - but then were swept by the awful Devil Rays. They had a three-game series against the White Sox where they combined to hit 11-for-89 (.123) and score one run.
Soul-crushing loss: Loss #2. Back then the Royals didn’t stand much of a chance in Yankee Stadium, but you had to feel good about their chances when they were up 7-4 in the eighth. Andy Sisco struggled with his command, but still exited with a one-run lead. Closer Ambriorix Burgos would then give up a three-run home run to Derek Jeter to give the Yankees a 9-7 lead they would not relinquish.
How it ended: The Royals jumped out to a 7-0 lead against former Royals pitcher Paul Byrd and hung on for an 11-5 win over Cleveland.
Quote: “I never say it can’t get worse.” - Buddy Bell
May 12-25, 2006 - 13 losses in a row
That’s right, just a month later the Royals went on another tear of ineptitude. From the start of the first losing streak through the end of this streak, the team lost 33 of 41 games. Less than a week after the losing streak ended, General Manager Allard Baird was fired and replaced by Braves executive Dayton Moore.
Soul-crushing loss: Loss #13. There were a pair of ninth-inning disaster walk-off losses to the Orioles and Indians, but this loss to the Tigers tops them. The Royals jumped out to a 6-0 lead early and still held a 7-4 lead in the eighth with two on and two outs. Closer Ambriorix Burgos had Placido Polanco down 0-2, only to give up a run-scoring single. Ivan Rodriguez followed up with a two-run triple to tie the game. In the ninth, Elmer Dessens and Andy Sisco combined to surrender three home runs to vaporize any hopes in a 13-7 loss.
How it ended: Angel Berroa hit a three-run home run off Kyle Farnsworth in the eighth inning at Yankee Stadium for a 7-6 win.
Quote: “We find all kinds of ways (to lose)...I can’t explain it.” -Buddy Bell
May 19-30, 2008 - 12 losses in a row
Royals fans had hope the franchise was moving in the right direction with a new GM in Dayton Moore, a new manager in Trey Hillman, and an exciting trio of young starting pitchers in Zack Greinke, Gil Meche, and Kyle Davies. They got out to a 21-22 start, just a game and a half out of first in late May. They were then swept in Boston and Toronto, then returned home to get swept by the Twins.
Soul-crushing loss: Loss #10. In the very first loss of the streak, the Royals were no-hit by Jon Lester in Boston. But the May 28 loss to the Twins was the gut-punch. The Royals led 8-3 going into the ninth and despite some struggles, Ramon Ramirez was one out away from closing it out. But he gave up three straight singles to cause Hillman to summon Joel Peralta. Peralta promptly gave up a no-doubt three-run home run to Craig Monroe to tie the game at 8-8. Justin Morneau would homer off him in the tenth to win it for Minnesota.
How it ended: Joakim Soria escaped out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth to preserve a 4-2 win over Cleveland.
Quote: “Too many babies in here. They don’t know how to play the game and how to win games. That’s the problem here...Now I know why this organization has been losing for a while.” -Jose Guillen
July 10-24, 2009 - 10 losses in a row
The 2009 Royals got off to a very promising 18-11 start, but it was all downhill from there. The Red Sox swept them going into the All-Star break to put the Royals’ record at 37-51. Even having Zack Greinke as a stopper didn’t help as the Royals still managed to lose both of his starts during the streak, despite a combined two runs allowed by that year’s Cy Young winner. The Rays and Angels swept them on the other side of the break, and by the time the losing streak was over they had lost 47 of 66 since their hot start.
Soul-crushing loss: Loss #9. Trey Hillman left Brian Bannister in for 114 pitches because of bullpen woes, pulling Banny only after a home run and single in the seventh. The Royals carried a 6-4 lead into the eighth, but Roman Colon quickly gave up a two-run home run to tie the game. Colon and Jamey Wright combined to walk three straight hitters, forcing Hillman to bring in closer Joakim Soria. Soria gave up a two-run double, en route to a 9-6 loss to the Angels.
How it ended: Luke Hochevar struck out a career-high 13 hitters over seven innings in a 6-3 win over Texas.
Quote: “I’ve never seen anything like this with the bullpen. It’s home runs. It’s base on balls. It’s broken-bat base hits. It’s ineffectiveness.” -Trey Hillman
April 11-24, 2012 - 12 losses in a row
Many of the players in the lineup during this losing streak would be one day be part of a championship club, but first Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Alcides Escobar had to endure a 12 game-losing streak. The Royals lost centerfielder Lorenzo Cain to injury in an early win in Oakland, then lost the next night. Home cooking didn’t do much for the Royals as they lost the Red Sox, Tigers, and Blue Jays, becoming the first team to lose their first ten home games since 1913.
Soul-crushing loss: Loss #2. The Royals got down to the Indians 9-2 early, but didn’t give up and clawed their way back into the game, tying it up in the eighth on a Yuniesky Betancourt home run. Reliever Greg Holland would have a disastrous April that year, giving up 8 runs in 6 1⁄3 innings, including a two-run double to Shin-Soo Choo in the tenth of this game, giving Cleveland an 11-9 win.
How it ended: Billy Butler hit a pair of home runs, Hosmer homered, and Luke Hochevar pitched well in an 8-2 win over Cleveland.
Quote: “Adversity is the fertilizer for maturity and growth. That may sound stupid, but it is. You have to go through adversity to become the player you can become.” - Ned Yost
June 29-July 9, 2018 - 10 losses in a row
The Royals were expecting some drop off after losing some of the core of their championship team with departing free agents Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain. But they dropped 14 of their first 21 games and suffered bullpen issues all season. Not even a solid September could help them avoid losing 100 games for the fifth time in franchise history.
Soul-crushing loss: Loss #8. The Royals and Red Sox were tied 4-4 after six frames in Fenway Park. Jason Adam gave up a walk and a double to begin the seventh. Do you remember that a guy named Enny Romero was on the Royals last year? He allowed both of those runners to score, plus another to make it 7-4 Red Sox. It was 8-4 going into the ninth when Brandon Maurer came in and poured gasoline all over the fire. He gave up five runs, requiring the Royals to put in catcher Drew Butera on the mound to get the final out in a 15-4 loss.
How it ended: Adalberto Mondesi singled, homered, stole second, and drove in four in a 9-4 win over Minnesota.
Quote: “I felt like I was all over the zone. I just couldn’t find it. Just par for the course for us tonight.” - Drew Butera
March 31 - ?????, 2019 - 10 losses in a row and counting
The Royals were hoping to capitalize off a strong finish last year relying on speed and defense. But after winning the first two games, a myriad of bullpen blowups have left the team reeling.
Soul-crushing loss: Loss #10. There have been so many bullpen blowups, but Thursday’s loss against the Mariners was the most crushing. The Royals were one out away from victory when a flyball hit by Mitch Haniger carried and was dropped by centerfielder Billy Hamilton as he crashed into the wall, allowing the game-tying run to score. A Dan Vogelbach home run would give the Mariners the lead, and not even Whit Merrifield could carry the Royals back to victory, as he ended his 31-game hitting streak.
How it ended: Stay tuned.
Quote: “That’s just kind of (the) bizarre season we’ve had so far, stuff like that…So it’s got to turn, it’s got to. Hopefully sooner than later.” - Whit Merrifield