The Kansas City Royals jumped out to an early 3-0 lead Sunday afternoon, but saw their advantage disappear in the late innings, falling 4-3 to the Los Angeles Angels.
The bottom of the Royals batting order got the offense started in the top of the third. Jimmy Paredes cracked a one-out single against Garrett Richards, then advanced to second base on a balk. Pedro Ciriaco followed with a double to center, plating Paredes.
Jarrod Dyson, hitting in the leadoff spot, reached base after Ciriaco with an infield single. Eric Hosmer then hit a shallow flyball in foul territory down the leftfield line, but it traveled just far enough to score Ciriaco and be counted as a sacrifice fly. Billy Butler followed with a walk, then Alex Gordon hit a single up the middle, driving in Dyson.
The team did very little offensively outside of the third inning. Salvador Perez hit a one-out double in the top of the ninth, counting as the Royals' only other extra-base hit. Richards ended up throwing seven strong innings, only allowing five hits while striking out seven. Michael Kohn and Ernesto Frieri didn't look particularly challenged by KC's Murderer's Row either in their respective innings out of the bullpen.
Three runs looked like it would be enough for Jason Vargas for most of the game. Vargas held the Angels scoreless for six innings, only giving up two hits over the frames. The southpaw did issue five walks to his former team, but ended up striking out six batters, both figures higher than you would expect from him.
Vargas surrendered a leadoff single to Chris Iannetta start the bottom of the seventh, then struck out Kole Calhoun (on a pitch that badly missed it's spot and probably should have been hit, but a strikeout nonetheless.) Ned Yost pulled Vargas after the at-bat, a sensible decision, replacing him with Kelvin Herrera, another sensible decision. Unfortunately, things didn't work out as planned.
Raul Ibanez came in as a pinch-hitter, delivering a single past Ciriaco into right field. Herrera forced a Howie Kendrick flyout for the second out of the inning, which brought Mike Trout to the plate. Trout smacked a ball down the third base line that snuck past Paredes, driving in Iannetta and putting two runners in scoring position. Herrera then hit Albert Pujols with an 0-2 breaking ball to load the bases for David Freese.
Freese also fell behind 0-2, but Herrera grooved him a 99-mph fastball over the middle of the plate that Freese smacked into centerfield, driving in Ibanez and Trout to tie the game. C.J. Cron followed with a single to right field, but Lorenzo Cain made a nice throw to the plate and threw out Albert Pujols, who looked like he was running with lead cleats. It was still a close play at the plate and Mike Scioscia challenged the ruling, but the original call stood.
Tim Collins came in for the eighth inning, retiring Erik Aybar before Iannetta roped a solo homer down the line for LA's fourth and final run of the game.
It's easy to pin the loss on the bullpen; Herrera and Collins deserve some of the blame. The offense, however, looked mostly lifeless and Royals defenders probably could have made a play on some of the hits in the seventh. Definitely a team effort to lose this one.
The Royals return home tomorrow to start a three-game series against the Houston Astros. Yordano Ventura will start for Kansas City, facing off against Scott Feldman.