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Royals can't hang on after Junis' strong start

Righty logs 8 K's over 6 frames, but 'pen labors in I-70 finale
MLB.com

KANSAS CITY -- Right-hander Jakob Junis has certainly had his share of ups and downs this season, but he showed on Sunday afternoon that he's continuing to trend in a positive direction.

Junis tossed six innings of one-run ball in the Royals' 8-2 loss to the Cardinals at Kauffman Stadium, allowing just three hits and striking out eight in a strong outing before the bullpen struggled late in the I-70 Series finale.

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KANSAS CITY -- Right-hander Jakob Junis has certainly had his share of ups and downs this season, but he showed on Sunday afternoon that he's continuing to trend in a positive direction.

Junis tossed six innings of one-run ball in the Royals' 8-2 loss to the Cardinals at Kauffman Stadium, allowing just three hits and striking out eight in a strong outing before the bullpen struggled late in the I-70 Series finale.

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"Came in with a good game plan," Junis said. "Hit my spots with my fastball, and played my slider off that, and had some good results."

The Royals have now lost nine of their last 10.

Video: STL@KC: Yost on Junis' outing, inability to produce

Junis got the ball rolling early, striking out Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina to start the game. He picked up three more K's before allowing his first hit, a dribbler through the hole of the infield by Patrick Wisdom in his first career Major League at-bat.

Wisdom scored the lone run surrendered by Junis. After Molina was hit by a pitch, Jose Martinez knocked the rookie in with a single to center that tied the game at 1 and moved Molina to third. Junis buckled down, however, getting Marcell Ozuna to line out to first baseman Lucas Duda on the next pitch to end the inning.

Out of Junis' eight strikeouts, seven came on his slider.

Video: STL@KC: Junis beats Ozuna to first after review

"It was good," Junis said of his go-to finishing pitch. "Throwing it at the right times, not leaving it over the middle of the plate. Trying to keep it down. When I wasn't striking guys out with it, I got some ground balls and some outs with it as well."

Junis exited after the sixth. Despite Junis sitting at just 96 pitches, manager Ned Yost said he didn't consider trotting Junis back out there for the seventh.

"If I had more of a lead, I would have," Yost said. "But a one-run lead, I'm not gonna go get him after the first guy. Just go give the reliever a clean inning."

Unfortunately, that's where things went awry for the Royals. Jason Hammel entered in relief and allowed four straight batters to reach as Wisdom knocked in the tying run with a single. Lefty Tim Hill came on and got one out, but Kevin McCarthy allowed the go-ahead two-run single to Molina in the next at-bat as the Cardinals took a 4-2 lead.

All three runs in the seventh were charged to Hammel, who took the loss.

"Feel bad for [Junis], threw the hell out of the ball," Hammel said. "Deserved better. That's a tough lineup. Pretty much set the tone for the rest of the game right there, coming in and not even getting an out. I'm pretty embarrassed."

The Cardinals scored another run in the eighth on Greg Garcia's RBI double off McCarthy, and they added three more in the ninth against Wily Peralta on Molina's double and a two-run homer from Paul DeJong.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Salvador Perez scored on Duda's single with a nifty swim move at the plate to avoid the tag by Molina in the third inning. Perez was initially ruled safe and the call was ruled to stand after the Cardinals challenged the play.

Video: STL@KC: Perez beats the tag with an acrobatic slide

"I made a funny move," Perez said. "[Molina] told me, 'Hey you look like [Cubs shortstop Javier Baez]. That's what Baez does every time."

According to Statcast™, Perez's sprint speed was 25.8 feet per second, quicker than his 2018 average of 24.9.

SOUND SMART
The Royals set a franchise record in the fifth with their 107th consecutive inning without committing an error, extending the mark to 111 innings with their 12th straight game without an error, which is also a franchise record. The streak began on July 29 against the Yankees.

ROYALS HONOR 2015 CHAMPS
The 2015 World Series championship team was honored prior to Sunday's game as part of the Royals' 50th season celebration.

Video: STL@KC: Hochevar on World Series, returning to KC

HE SAID IT
"I really don't think so. I mean, I was in the hole (1-2) in the ninth inning, one strike away [from ending the game]." -- Jorge Bonifacio, while shaking his head, on if he thought Tyler Webb intentionally threw at him before being ejected in the ninth

Video: STL@KC: Webb gets ejected after hitting Bonifacio

Luke Hochevar, Kris Medlen and Chris Young returned to Kauffman Stadium and were joined by the six current Royals from that team: Drew Butera, Danny Duffy, Alcides Escobar, Alex Gordon, Adalberto Mondesi and Perez.

UP NEXT
Royals right-hander Brad Keller (4-5, 3.57 ERA) will start the opener of a four-game set against the Blue Jays at 7:15 p.m. CT on Monday at Kauffman Stadium. Keller faced Toronto in two relief appearances earlier this season. Lefty Sean Reid-Foley will be making his Major League debut for the Blue Jays.

Jordan Wolf is a reporter for MLB.com based in Kansas City.

Kansas City Royals, Jakob Junis