by John Viril—
After finally climbing back to .500 on May 18, the Royals lost their fourth straight game on Saturday. While unpleasant, losing four straight games is not the end of the world. What is disturbing is it’s starting to look like a pattern.
On May 19, the Royals led the Cleveland Indians 3-1 in the bottom of the eighth. Tim Collins and Kelvin Herrera combined to blow the lead by surrendering 3 runs. That was bad enough. But, the loss turned brutal when the now departed (optioned to Omaha) Chris Getz failed to get down a bunt with runners on second and third with no outs. Alcides Escobar rapped a sharp single to right, and David Lough ran through a stop sign toward home—except he belatedly turned around more than halfway toward home and got hung up in a rundown.
Since the throw from Cleveland RF Drew Stubbs came in offline, Lough would have easily scored if he had continued. At the very least, Lough’s indecision cost the Royals a chance to tie.
As unsettling as a sloppy loss like that can be, what’s even worse is how the team has reacted to it. The Royals followed up that poor game with more base running errors the next day—and the losing streak is still going on.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen this before—about seven weeks ago.
On May 6th, the Royals were 17-10 and led the Chicago White Sox 1-0 going into the bottom of the 9th. Manager Ned Yost pulled ace James Shields—even though he looked strong enough to continue—in favor of closer Greg Holland. Holland promptly blew the save for a heartbreaking 2-1 loss.
The team wilted after that blown game, losing 18 of their next 22.
With the Royals following up a tough loss with another losing streak, what could normally be dismissed as a bad stretch now looks like a pattern. Today’s game turned on a critical sequence that began in the bottom of the 8th inning.
Gifted with a triple when Chicago outfielders misplayed what should have been a deep fly out by Eric Hosmer, the Royals failed to capitalize with Hosmer on third and only one out. C Salvador Perez hacked at a high pitch from laboring Chicago reliever Jesse Crain to hit a high popup. After DH Billy Butler drew a walk, slumping CF Lorenzo Cain looked bad striking out while chasing a low pitch.
Meanwhile, the White Sox patiently worked on Royals closer Greg Holland in a similar situation in the top of the 9th. After Chicago put runners on first and second with no outs against Aaron Crow, two consecutive batters coaxed consecutive deep fly balls from Holland on 3-2 counts. The first advanced the lead runner to 3rd. The second brought pinch runner Jordan Danks home to score what turned out to be the winning run.
One failure is hardly significant in the scope of a 162 game season. But when the mental gaffes come game after game following a rough loss—you begin to wonder. Losing streaks are as much mental as physical, and the Royals now find themselves stuck in yet another one this season.
This time, general manager Dayton Moore is fresh out of franchise legends to hire.
P.S. The wimpiness even extends to the front office. Rather than accept that his team’s lack of plate discipline is caused by his draft and development philosophy, general manager Dayton Moore instead blamed the K. You can’t fix an organization overnight. But, in the immediate term, the Royals will continue to flounder if Moore doesn’t make a trade to bring in the bats he needs to support his successful pitching staff rebuild.