Royals' rally falls short again in finale
Breaking down the good and the bad from Sunday's loss to the Twins
KANSAS CITY -- The inability to rally late in games is crippling the Royals' season.
Kansas City is now 0-16 when trailing after six innings following Sunday’s 5-4 loss to Minnesota at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals and Twins split the season series, 5-5.
Royals manager Mike Matheny believes one of those late-inning rallies to win is on the horizon.
“The sooner the better,” Matheny said. “When I walked off that field, the first thing I thought of is that we’re playing winning baseball too frequently not to be slapping high-fives. What we witnessed today was winning baseball, and we walk away with a loss. The bottom line is wins and losses, and I get that. But when you start looking at pieces instead of the results ...”
Hunter Dozier led the offense with a four-hit game and scored three runs.
“It would be huge to win a game late,” Dozier said. “We’re battling back every game when we are down. We’re a hit or two away from breaking games open. It’s going to come. All you can do is just keep battling and put yourself in a position to win a game late.”
Here are 3 ups and 3 downs from Sunday’s game.
Terrific turns: Trailing, 4-2, in the top of the fourth inning, the Royals got out of a huge jam, thanks to some great defense. After a rough start this season in the field, third baseman Maikel Franco has really picked it up defensively. Miguel Sanó came up with runners at the corners and one out and hit a smash toward left field that Franco cut off with a great stop. Franco spun around and threw a dart to second baseman Nicky Lopez, who quickly fired a strike to first for a double play.
“Super defense today,” Matheny said. “You look at a guy like Nicky Lopez -- a couple of popups and a couple of punchouts. But that might be one of the best-defended second-base positions I’ve seen in a long, long time. That was Gold Glove-caliber defense in terms of turns, coming in to make plays. Really impressive, and Franco, too.”
Holland puts out fire: Reliever Greg Holland is one of perhaps only two firemen that Matheny feels confident to bring into messy situations -- Scott Barlow being the other. Holland took over for Tyler Zuber with runners on first and second and none out in the fifth. Holland proceeded to get Ildemaro Vargas to bounce into a 6-4-3 double play. Holland then came back from being down 3-0 in the count to Jake Cave and got a strikeout, ending the threat and keeping the score at 4-2.
Hahn comes through: Right-hander Jesse Hahn, who was just activated from first the restricted list and then the paternity list this week, was impressive in two innings of work. Hahn put down the Twins 1-2-3 in the sixth inning with two strikeouts. He walked the first two hitters he faced in the seventh, but came back to get a strikeout and two groundouts. Hahn could be a valuable setup man for Matheny down the road.
Tough day for Bubic: Rookie left-hander Kris Bubic had the worst start of his young career. It was clear early on that Bubic didn’t have great command as he faced the Twins for his second consecutive start. Bubic allowed nine hits and four runs over his 3 1/3 innings. He walked two and struck out none. Bubic threw more changeups (34) than fastballs (30), perhaps because his curveball wasn’t sharp. He got no called strikes or swings and misses on his eight curves.
Bubic said he went heavy with the changeup, somewhat out of necessity, and because of situations.
“A little bit of both, especially with their middle-of-the-order guys,” he said. “That is a pitch that is going to always be there when I don’t have fastball or curveball command. But then again, as a hitter, you’re going to eventually sit on that.”
Overall, Bubic was not pleased with the way his outing unfolded.
“Hopefully, by the end of the year, I can look back on a day like this and laugh at it,” he said, “and figure out how much I learned, and not worry about the results of it. I don’t want to dig too deep into it.”
RISP woes: The Royals have struggled mightily lately trying to deliver big hits. They are just 2-for-20 this season in bases-loaded situations, for example. The Royals had chances early on Sunday. In the first inning, Whit Merrifield singled and stole second. Dozier walked with one out. But Jorge Soler flied out and Franco struck out. The Royals had two on and two out in the fourth, but Merrifield grounded out. Again, they had two on and two out in the fifth, but Alex Gordon grounded out.
Mondesi slump: No Royals hitter is having a tougher time these days than shortstop Adalberto Mondesi. The Royals were down, 4-3, in the seventh, with the bases loaded and two out. Mondesi went down swinging on three consecutive sliders from Sergio Romo. Mondesi now is 3-for-25 this season with RISP, and that includes 14 strikeouts.