Tuesday’s 7-6 come-from-behind victory over the Washington Nationals was supposed to be the firestarter for a Kansas City Royals hot streak.
The Royals, conjuring up memories of the last two years when ninth-inning rallies used to be the rule and not the exception, battered Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon with three runs, the winning hit coming from the slumping Lorenzo Cain.
Talk centered after the game that this blast from the past would be the push the Royals needed to end their malaise. After a 12-6 start that was predicated on strong starting pitching and great work from the bullpen, the Royals lost six of seven games before the emotional victory.
So Wednesday afternoon, on a sun-splashed day that dripped with optimism and the electricity in the air still being felt from the night before, a capacity crowd gathered at The K to watch the Royals continue their turnaround. Many of them were kids as some 15,000 were in attendance for a special promotion.
What they endured — at least for the ones who stayed past the fourth inning — was a clown show that probably had some fans clamoring for their money back.
The Royals made three errors — and it took only four batters into the game.
By the time starting pitcher Kris Medlen staggered off the mound with his brain being scrambled and his arm exhausted after 42 taxing pitches, six Nationals had crossed the plate in the inning and the game basically was over just after it started.
Another four runs in the third inning and singletons in the next three frames swelled the final score to 13-2, another game in which the Royals failed to score four runs, which is generally their benchmark to win.
Eric Hosmer wound up being tossed out of a game for the first time in his career, Salvador Perez had to play first base and Ned Yost had to waste Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis for an inning each, though the Royals do have an off day today to rest and gather their wits as they prepare to play seven more road games after being home for just three.
This game continued an alarming trend for the Royals though. Their airtight defense has sprung leaks, especially the aging Omar Infante at second base, who has clanked several balls this year. Jarrod Dyson is looking more and more like a backup instead of a starter as he made another boot in the outfield as his concentration seems to wander like the average Little Leaguer who often daydreams because few balls are hit his way.
Somehow, some way the Royals are still a game over .500 at 14-13 and Yost shows little emotion on the bench. He is the ultimate players manager and never criticizes his team, always giving credit to the other teams’ pitchers for stopping his team’s offense or saying the errors are plays his guys normally make but just didn’t on this given occasion. If you’re looking for him to chew some tail, you’ve got the wrong guy. Sometimes, however, I think the Royals have gotten too comfortable, knowing they won’t be held accountable for mistakes.
I think the World Series hangover has finally hit. The Royals rode their championship adrenaline for the first 20 games, but now they’re looking like a team that will be hard-pressed to make the playoffs. Chicago has sprinted to a 19-9 start, but most baseball experts believe this is an aberration and it will return to earth. The Royals do have seven games against the Chisox this month, so the opportunity is there to cut into their lead.
Detroit is looking old, while Cleveland has no hitting to augment its stellar starting pitching. Minnesota has looked like the Twins of old and not the team that rode spirit and spunk to a second-place finish behind the Royals last year.
A long way still to go, but you’d like to see the Royals start putting together a winning stretch.