KANSAS CITY -- How bad is it going for the Royals? Their pitchers threw a combined four-hitter against the American League Central-leading Indians on Wednesday night and it still wasn't enough.Four Royals pitchers held the Indians down, but the Royals' offense -- last in Major League Baseball in runs scored
KANSAS CITY -- How bad is it going for the Royals? Their pitchers threw a combined four-hitter against the American League Central-leading Indians on Wednesday night and it still wasn't enough.
Four Royals pitchers held the Indians down, but the Royals' offense -- last in Major League Baseball in runs scored -- couldn't produce, either, in a 3-2 loss at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals have lost six straight and 24 of 28.
One of the Royals' runs was manufactured on a delayed steal, which resulted in Alex Gordonstealing home. The Royals managed little else against Indians starter Trevor Bauer, who went 7 2/3 innings and struck out eight.
Right-hander Trevor Oaks, presumably a part of the Royals' rebuild, was an emergency starter after scheduled starter Ian Kennedywent on the disabled list Tuesday with a strained oblique. Oaks, recalled from Triple-A Omaha, went four innings and gave up two hits and three runs.
But Oaks had difficulty commanding his best pitch -- the two-seam fastball -- and he walked four hitters. He threw 73 pitches, 44 for strikes.
Royals manager Ned Yost said Oaks simply was too up in the zone, likely because he had trouble gripping the ball with the high humidity and a heat index at 100 degrees.
"He's been doing really, really well down in Omaha, keeping the ball down," Yost said. "All our scouting reports are, he's keeping the ball down. He's leading the league in ERA down there. But he was sweating like a horse out there, and just really struggled to get the ball down."
Oaks admitted he did have trouble gripping the ball because of perspiration.
"Big league balls are a little more slick than I'm used to in the Minors," Oaks said. "With that and the humidity, the sweat running down my arms, I couldn't get a clean grip on it. Kept putting resin on it between innings … but really, I needed to make the adjustment.
"It was the leadoff walks and not having good command [that hurt]. Luckily, I had a good slider, which bailed me out of bad counts. Really frustrating when I have walked one or two an outing, and now back to four. Now, back to the drawing board."
Relievers Heath Fillmyer, Tim Hill and Wily Peralta shut out the Tribe the rest of the way on two hits.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Royals missed a chance to push across the tying run in the eighth inning. Whit Merrifield led off with a double, and when Rosell Herrera couldn't advance him to third, Merrifield tried to steal the bag, but was thrown out. With two out, Salvador Perez reached on an infield single, but Lucas Duda was called out on strikes.
Merrifield, last year's American League stolen base king, had been 9-for-9 stealing third base this season and 19-for-20 in his career.
"I got a good jump," Merrifield said. "My keys were right and I got a good jump. I executed on my end. The pitch was basically a pitch-out to the left and [Perez] made a perfect throw. He got me this time. It was the right play in that situation. If [Bauer] throws that ball [outside] or its a curveball, I'm safe. If I had the chance to do it again, I would."
The Indians, though, were convinced Merrifield would be going and were ready.
"I was watching Merrifield since he got on second base," Indians catcher Roberto Perez said. "He gave me the sign [he was going] pretty much. He was being aggressive and faking he was gonna try to steal. Bauer, he threw a lot of breaking balls, and I just called fastball up and in. I thought that was the game right there."
After an off-day Thursday, the Royals will continue their homestand by opening a three-game set with the Red Sox on Friday at 7:15 p.m CT. Right-hander Jason Hammel (2-10, 5.56 ERA) takes the mound for the Royals. Left-hander Chris Sale (8-4, 2.41 ERA) will start for the Red Sox. Hammel tied a career-high Saturday by giving up 13 hits over six innings to the Mariners. He also gave up six runs.
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB.