After scoring at least six runs in every game of the series and in a season-high four straight games, the Royals run-scoring was stifled today in a 3-2 loss to Houston. Kansas City managed a respectable eight hits on the afternoon but left 19 runners on base.
The Royals got to Justin Verlander early. Emmanuel Rivera led off the 2nd with a single and moved to third on a Edward Olivares single, who also moved up to 2nd. The rally slowed thanks to a Kyle Isbel strikeout and Martin Maldonado catching Rivera napping on a pick off throw to third. Fortunately, Nicky Lopez picked Rivera up with a two-out RBI single to put Kansas City up 1-0.
Through two innings, the Royals had four hits against Verlander, a rare feat against the 39-year-old.
Verlander has allowed more than four hits just five times this year.— Hunter Samuels (@HunterSamuels) July 7, 2022
The Royals collected four hits off him the first time through the order.
Kansas City added another run in the 4th, thanks to Olivares’ 2nd single of the day and an error that put him on 3rd with nobody out. A Kyle Isbel sac fly drove him in, making it a 2-0 lead.
While the offense slowed down this afternoon, the Royals scored at least six runs in every game leading up to the series finale, a continuation of the offense’s recent success. Since Alec Zumwalt took over for Terry Bradshaw as the hitting coach, Kansas City ranks 14th in baseball in wRC+. Across the last month, the Royals rank 7th in wRC+.
Meanwhile, Kansas City sent Kris Bubic to the mound in one of the more lopsided pitching match ups of recent memory.
Justin Verlander has an ERA- of 56.— Craig Brown (@CraigBrown_KC) July 7, 2022
Kris Bubic has an ERA- of 179.
Most lopsided starting pitching matchup ever? #Royals
And while the Royals were uncharacteristically successful against Verlander, Bubic had uncharacteristic success against Houston through four innings.
Three walks put him in danger in the 3rd, but a big double play and strikeout helped him escape, although his pitch count characteristically took a hit. In his first four innings, Bubic kept the Astros scoreless, giving up just a hit and striking out five batters but also walking a whopping five batters.
However, Bubic’s inability to put hitter away came back to bite him in the 5th. Up 0-2 on Maldonado, the catcher worked the count back to 3-2 before he doubled down the left field line. Jose Altuve then blasted the next pitch into the Crawford Boxes, tying the game at 2-2. He went down 3-0 to Aledmys Diaz, who bailed him out by grounding out on ball four.
That proved to be consequential, as Yordan Alvarez blasted the first pitch he saw into the Crawford boxes to give the Astros a 3-2 lead. In 25 at bats this season agaist the Royals, Alvarez is hitting .480 with five homers. Bubic responded by walking Alex Bregman on four pitches for his sixth walk of the game.
The 5th inning woes are nothing new for Bubic. In the 5th and 6th innings, batters entered the afternoon with a 1.096 OPS against Bubic. He got the first out of the 6th, ending his afternoon after giving the Royals 5.1 innings of work, giving up five hits, three runs, and walking a season-high six batters
Kansas City got right back at Verlander, with Rivera leading off the 6th with a single. A one out walk from Isbel made it a proper rally, but ground outs from Lopez and Cam Gallagher ended the inning. That proved to be the Royals last rally of the afternoon. Kansas City managed just a single base runner across the final third of the game.
Houston added two insurance runs in the 8th to finish the Royals off. Kansas City went quietly in the 9th, the record dropping to 30-51. At the exact halfway point of the season, Kansas City is on pace to lose 102 games.
Up Next: Royals v. Guardians, Friday, July 8. 7:10 PM CDT, Kauffman Stadium. RHP Aaron Civale (2-5, 7.04 ERA) v. RHP Brady Singer (3-3, 4.30 ERA)