CLEVELAND -- The Royals entered the series against Cleveland as one of the hottest teams in baseball. They had won six consecutive games and six straight series, catapulting into first place in the AL Central after a disappointing 17-19 start.However, in Cleveland, the story changed. The Royals fell 7-1 Saturday
CLEVELAND -- The Royals entered the series against Cleveland as one of the hottest teams in baseball. They had won six consecutive games and six straight series, catapulting into first place in the AL Central after a disappointing 17-19 start.
However, in Cleveland, the story changed. The Royals fell 7-1 Saturday night to the Indians at Progressive Field, dropping their third game in a row. The loss dropped them out of first in the AL Central, but perhaps more concerning was that it was the second straight loss for the team with one of its more reliable pitchers on the mound.
In fact, on May 16, Royals manager Ned Yost talked about his level of trust with both Saturday's starter, right-hander Ian Kennedy, and Friday's starter, right-hander Edinson Volquez. He praised the duo's ability to consistently keep the team in games, in addition to their consistent success and production.
"Very seldom did they go out and give up five or six runs and we're down 7-1 by the fifth inning," Yost said at the time. "That just doesn't happen."
But after Saturday's game, it had happened, and it had happened twice in as many days.
Volquez allowed five earned runs in 6 1/3 innings on Friday and Kennedy allowed five earned runs in six innings Saturday.
With Volquez, trouble came early on, while with Kennedy it didn't happen until the sixth inning.
After recording two outs and surrendering a second run, Kennedy had Rajai Davis down 0-2 with a chance to limit the damage. Two hits later, the game was out of reach. Kennedy allowed five earned runs for the first time since May 12.
"I was one pitch away from getting out of [the sixth inning] with just one run," Kennedy said. "It was just that last inning, [three] big mistakes."
But while the team has lost three straight, there aren't signs of panic coming from within. Kennedy talked about how well the Indians had been playing and how the Royals need to step up, while Yost said the skid was simply about not capitalizing on opportunities.
"Most teams in our division have been a little streaky," Yost said. "It's baseball."
And while Kennedy said he was frustrated with his performance, there wasn't concern about things spiraling out of control. He put everything into context, and even made light of how much is made of a divisional race when there's still more than three months left to go in the season.
"If we win tomorrow we're back in first," Kennedy said with a chuckle, "This'll be a good test for us, but it's still June 4 today. We still have a long way to go."
Scott Chasen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Kansas City.