The Royals seem to have a thing with extended losing streaks. They lost their 10th in a row on Thursday, their first 10 game losing streak since... 2018.
It’s something of familiar territory. In total, this is the 10th losing streak of at least 10 games in franchise history. Going back to their inception in 1969, just three teams have had as many—the Detroit Tigers (13), Baltimore Orioles (11) and the Seattle Mariners (also 10). The Royals know losing streaks.
This streak is a little different, in that the Royals have been in the mix of most of these losses. Indeed, the Royals have held the lead in eight of the 10 games. They have scored in the first inning in seven of those contests. The bullpen has obviously been a culprit in a majority of these. The offense has done well enough, averaging 4.1 runs per loss, although as noted in this space, the bottom of the order has struggled.
Sigh. So here we are. Another losing streak. You feel this because you’ve suffered. The flashbacks to Buddy Bell and Ken Harvey are real. The scars run deep and recent. There are no amount of championships that will ever erase what we experienced on an almost nightly basis from 1995 to 2013.
Since we have 10 losses let’s do a top ten! Presented here are each of the Royals losses in increasing order of awfulness. Warning: This post is not safe if you have a heart condition or are expecting a child.
10. Loss Number 1: 3/31 Royals 3, White Sox 6
This is one of the games in the current losing streak where the Royals never held the lead. They fell behind 6-0 with four of those runs charged to Jorge Lopez who couldn’t get a batter out in the sixth. Hey, they weren’t going to go undefeated. Two wins in three games qualifies as a great start.
That feeling would evaporate...
Highest Royals Win Expectancy: 55% at the start of the bottom of the second.
9. Loss Number 8: 4/9 Royals 3, Mariners 6
The two clubs traded single runs in the first and the third before the Mariners pushed ahead for good off Jakob Junis in the fourth. This is the second game of the streak where the Royals never held the lead. If this wasn’t a game in an extended losing streak, we never would have spoken of this one again.
Highest Royals Win Expectancy: 58% in the bottom of the first.
8. Loss Number 6: 4/7 Royals 1, Tigers 3
A rare pitcher’s duel. The Royals drew first blood, scoring their lone run of the contest in the top of the first. The Tigers countered with a pair of runs in the second and tacked on another in the sixth. All runs came against Royals starter Brad Keller. This game is notable for both Billy Hamilton and Whit Merrifield being caught stealing. One of the signs that strange things were afoot in this streak.
Highest Royals Win Expectancy: 60% at the end of the first inning.
7. Loss Number 7: 4/8 Royals 5, Seattle 13
Despite the final score being a blowout—the only loss of a greater than three run margin in this entire 10 game losing streak—the Royals actually held the lead early. For the fifth time in seven games (to this point in the losing streak) they opened the scoring in the first inning. The Mariners quickly countered with a pair against Homer Bailey, but the Royals regained the lead following a Chris Owings single in the third. (Really. A Chris Owings single. This is not fan fiction, dear readers.)
Then the Mariners got serious. They tied the game in the fifth and then all hell broke loose in the sixth. The Royals used four pitchers to record three outs. Bailey opened the inning by surrendering a home run to Edwin Encarnacion (remember that name) and then neither Tim Hill or Kevin McCarthy could get the required outs. By the time Encarnacion strode to the plate for the second time in the inning, the Mariners had already tallied five. Encarnacion capped the scoring with another dinger.
Yes, two home runs for Encarnacion in one inning. Special things happen in a Royals losing streak.
Highest Royals Win Expectancy: 79% at the start of the bottom of the fourth.
6. Loss Number 4: 4/4 Royals 4, Tigers 5
The Royals jumped out to the early lead in the Tigers home opener, but Detroit quickly countered to take the advantage. The Royals took their second lead of the game in the fifth on an Alex Gordon sacrifice fly, but the Tigers tied it in their half off starter Junis.
It remained all square until the seventh. Kyle Zimmer entered the game and couldn’t throw a strike, walking all three batters he faced. Kevin McCarthy mercifully replaced Zimmer and proceeded the walk in the go-ahead run. Christin Stewart collected an insurance run on a sac fly.
Highest Royals Win Expectancy: 62% in the bottom of the fifth with one out.
5. Loss Number 5: 4/6 Royals 4, Tigers 7
The Royals just briefly held the lead in this one, but it was late. Trailing 2-1 in the top of the seventh, Jorge Soler opened the frame with a home run to knot the score. The recently demoted Frank Schwindel contributed with his first big league hit and came around to score on a Hunter Dozier homer.
The lead evaporated quickly. In the Detroit half of the seventh, Kevin McCarthy couldn’t retire a batter, allowing three singles and a walk. Wily Peralta issued a walk to load the bases and then promptly unloaded them, grooving a pitch to Christin Stewart. Grand slam. Ballgame.
Highest Royals Win Expectancy: 82% in the top of the seventh with one out.
4. Loss Number Nine: 4/10 Royals 5, Mariners 6
Loosely following the script from Loss Number Eight, the two teams traded runs through the first three innings before the Mariners again forged ahead in the fourth.
The game got electric in the seventh. Owings led off with a double. He came around to score when Terrance Gore, making his first major league start, put a charge into one and tripled. Whit Merrifield was up next, and needing a hit to break the record held by George Brett for the Royals club record hitting streak at 30 games, dropped a perfect bunt down the third base line for a single. Game tied. Record broken.
Alas, you knew it couldn’t last. With two down in the ninth, Brad Boxberger surrendered the go-ahead home run to Mitch Haniger. The Royals loaded the bases in the ninth, but Adalberto Mondesi popped out to end the game and extend the streak.
This one had a bit of excitement, but excitement doesn’t win ballgames.
Highest Royals Win Expectancy: 65% after a Mondesi single with one out in the eighth.
3. Loss Number 3: 4/3 Royals 6, Twins 7
The second game of the short series against the Twins was another tight one, with the Royals grabbing an early lead before the Twins surged ahead in the fourth. In the bottom of the fifth, the Royals exploded for five runs, three of them coming on an Alex Gordon home run to center.
The Twins chipped away. They got one back off Scott Barlow in the sixth. They tied it off Jake Diekman in the eighth. A walk, a steal and an Eddie Rosario single off Wily Peralta in the ninth secured the win.
This is where you started to wonder if anyone in the bullpen could ever pitch a clean inning.
Highest Royals Win Expectancy: 90% in the top of the eighth with one out.
2. Loss Number 2: 4/2 Royals 4, Twins 5 - 10 innings
This was a bit of a see-saw affair with the Royals taking a one run lead on three separate occasions.
The Royals took the lead and looked to close out their third win of the season when Adalberto Mondesi legged out an inside the park home run. Speed thrills, baby and Mondesi, who wasn’t even busting it out of the box, circled the bases in 15.36 seconds and reached a sprint speed of 29.8. It seemed the Royals were on their way.
It took the Twins just three batters against Ian Kennedy to tie the game in the top of the ninth. They won it in the tenth on a single, a two out walk and a single from Nelson Cruz off Brad Boxberger.
Highest Royals Win Expectancy: 87% with two outs in the bottom of the eighth.
1. Loss Number Ten: 4/11 Royals 6, Mariners 7
It doesn’t get much worse than this. Remember those night terrors you have where you dream Chip Ambres dropped a fly ball or a seagull got in the way of Coco Crisp? Add Billy Hamilton and the outfield wall to your nightmare fuel.
The Royals held a 4-0 lead after five. Starter Jorge Lopez scuffled in the sixth, surrendering two runs. Jake Newberry, in his introduction to the 2019 Royals bullpen allowed a run in the seventh. Wily Peralta gave up a double and a pair of singles to open his frame before escaping with a double play.
With the Royals and their bullpen, it was a tenuous hold on a two-run lead in the ninth, when Brad Boxberger entered the game. He recorded the first out before allowing back to back singles. He struck out Mallex Smith looking to set up another showdown against Mitch Haniger.
It’s uncanny, isn’t it, how the Baseball Gods work. Just one day after Haniger got the best of Boxberger with two outs in the ninth, the same two combatants would square off in almost the exact same situation, the only difference being the score line and runners on base.
Down to their final strike, Haniger lofted a fly to deep center field. Billy Hamilton, in as a defensive replacement, seemed to have a line on the ball. The game was over. The streak was dead. And then…
The ball tipped off the end of Hamilton’s glove, Mariners circled the bases, Hamilton lay in agony on the warning track. The game was tied.
So damn close.
After that, it was merely academic. Dan Vogelbach mercifully homered in the tenth to avoid dragging out the inevitable for multiple extra frames. The streak would live for another day.
Highest Royals Win Expectancy: 96% with one out in the top of the ninth.