by John Viril—
Let’s not shy away from the truth. The Royals suffered a devastating loss Tuesday night to the Cleveland Indians.
Poised to win yet another low scoring game to hang onto second place in the Central Division, Kansas City relievers Kelvin Herrera and Tim Collins combined to surrender 3 runs in the bottom of the 8th to blow a 3-1 lead. In the bottom of the ninth, LF David Lough looked ready to tie the game after running through a stop sign from 3rd base coach Eddie Rodriguez, but then belatedly stopped half-way to home plate and retreated to third. The gaff allowed the Indians to double Mike Moustakas off third base, after he had advanced thinking Lough was going for home.
Instead of sole possession of second and gaining a game on division-leading Detroit, the Royals fell back to third place—and back under .500—after their long climb from last place on May 30. Kansas City’s May tailspin started when the team blew a late 1-0 lead against the Chicago White Sox on May 6th after pulling starter James Shields. The Royals went 4-18 over the next 22 games, while losing seven one-run games during the stretch. Keen observers could see the entire team’s body English wilt late in games. At the end, the losing continued because the Royals could not pull out of a mental funk that had taken over the clubhouse.
Losing is one thing. Losing because a player panics under pressure like Lough did is much worse. His first mistake was running through a stop sign. However, he compounded his error by belatedly rethinking his decision half-way to home plate. That Cleveland right fielder Drew Stubbs’ threw wide of home plate made matters even worse. Lough would have scored had he continued running.
In the coming days, we will see if this young team has learned anything from the tough times of May. It would be all too easy to allow last night’s buffoonery to cause yet another crisis of confidence in which the team loses games due to self doubt rather than lack of talent.
The next week or so will show whether the 2013 Royals are different than their predecessors—or else we’re in store for more of the same.