For a brief moment, it looked as though the Royals’ offense would carry all their momentum from Tuesday’s late-inning comeback into Wednesday night’s game at Comerica Park.
But after the Royals scored two runs in the first inning, Casey Mize made sure to squash any hope of that. The Tigers starter completely shut the Royals down from the second to the sixth inning, and the Tigers’ bullpen did the rest in the Royals’ 4-2 loss.
Kansas City has now hit double digits in its losing streak, and the 10th loss on Wednesday guarantees a series loss in Detroit to open this seven-game road trip. The last time the Royals lost 10 straight was from March 31-April 11, 2019.
“We’ve lost 10 in a row,” starter Danny Duffy said. “There’s no escaping that. The only way to aid that is to win, and we just got to go do it. We’ve got to figure out a way to do it. Skip’s got confidence in us, all our coaches do, but we got to put it together. And we’re going to do that.”
The anatomy of a 10-game losing streak often includes a fair share of bad luck. When a team is struggling, nothing seems to fall its way. That’s the way it’s going right now for the Royals. Only two of their 12 hard-hit balls (95+ mph exit velocity, according to Statcast) Wednesday night fell for hits. Entering Wednesday, the Royals recorded an average exit velocity of 90.7 mph since the streak began on May 2. And yet they ranked 28th in the Majors with 3.1 runs per game.
The Royals, however, can’t chalk it all up to bad luck. They registered just two hits off Mize after the first inning and went hitless in three innings against the Tigers’ bullpen. In the sixth, the Royals got two on base with nobody out, but Mize needed just two pitches to get out of the inning: Jorge Soler grounded into a double play, and Benintendi lined out to left field.
“I think we got into spots where we got a little aggressive, but that’s probably trying to generate offense, make something happen,” manager Mike Matheny said. “… Got a little bit of something going, then a double play takes us out. Had that happen a number of times over the last week, taking momentum away.”
The Royals are hitting just .188 with runners in scoring position over these last 10 games.
“There’s urgency,” Matheny said. “There’s not a guy in that room that’s going to sit here and tell you that they don’t understand that we’re in a bad run and feel like they really want to do something. That’s what you’re supposed to do.”
While the offense works to get something going, the pitching hasn’t been keeping opposing offenses down. The Royals have been outscored 70-30 over the past 10 games. Duffy was good but not brilliant Wednesday night, and it seems as though the Royals need a stellar pitching performance to break out of this funk. The veteran lefty allowed four runs on seven hits, with eight strikeouts and two walks in six innings.
“When I got beat, I got beat on my mistakes,” Duffy said. “Offspeed. It’s frustrating. I just couldn’t finish my slider today. My curveball was really good. Changeup looked good. We just ran away from the heater too much, and that’s on me. I was shaking. Gotta be better.”
Duffy has been so good to start the year that the four runs allowed looked alarming. He had allowed just seven runs (five earned) in his first six starts (35 2/3 innings). Detroit broke the 2-2 tie in the fifth with a leadoff triple on a sinker down the middle, a double on a hanging slider and a single on a changeup that was a little off its target on the outside part of the zone but got through the shift that the Royals had set up.
Duffy has been through losing streaks before. The Royals had a 10-game losing streak in 2018, too. He’s noticed that the confidence isn’t down, like some past years.
“For one, there’s no lack of urgency,” Duffy said. “I can tell you that, 110 percent, we are absolutely busting our butts out there. Just not falling our way. Very frustrating. Been through this before. Don’t like going through it. But we’re going to come out of it. When we lose a game, that whole slide, feels like we just let our city down. …
“We got everything we need in that clubhouse. We got so much talent in that clubhouse. It’s just a matter of putting some wins together and getting back on the horse.”