PITTSBURGH — For a while, Sunday, the Royals and their slumbering attack appeared in real danger of suffering a no-hitter. And wouldnt that have been a fitting end to a lost weekend and a deflating week?
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
So, yes, this 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates could have been worse. Still, it was bad enough.
The Royals didnt get a hit against Pirates starter A.J. Burnett, 6-2, until Alex Gordon yanked a one-out single through the right side in the sixth inning. They avoided a shutout on doubles in the seventh by Brayan Peña and Alcides Escobar.
A possible comeback loomed in the eighth, when they knocked out Burnett, scored once and loaded the bases with two outs against reliever Juan Cruz, a former Royal but hardly a fan favorite.
So stinging Cruz would have been doubly sweet but he stranded all three runners by striking out Mitch Maier.
Jason Grilli closed out Pittsburghs sweep by stranding two more runners in the ninth the Pirates first interleague sweep in 50 series dating to June 15-17, 2001 against Cleveland here at PNC. (Want a silver lining? Those Indians won the division title.)
The Royals three weekend losses at PNC Park completed a 1-5 week that zapped much of the progress made in the previous six weeks in digging out from the rubble of a 12-game April skid.
The Royals are back to 10 games under .500 at 24-34 just one shy of their season-worst 11-under (3-14) at the conclusion of that 12-game collapse.
The biggest problem in their current tumble is an ongoing inability to deliver a clutch hit. The Royals were two for 12 on Sunday with runners in scoring position and finished the weekend at four for 29. They are 13 for 76 with RISP this month in nine games.
The Royals trailed 3-1 in the eighth when Gordon sliced a one-out single to left. He went to second on a wild pitch and to third on Johnny Giavotellas infield single. A slight bobble by shortstop Clint Barmes was enough for Giavotella to reach safely.
That finished Burnett after 107 pitches when Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle called on lefty Tony Watson to face Hosmer and Mike Moustakas.
Hosmers grounder to short produced a run when he avoided the double play by beating the pivot throw from second baseman Neil Walker. Royals manager Ned Yost then sent up Billy Butler to bat for Moustakas.
Butler walked, which prompted another pitching change to Cruz, who loaded the bases by walking Peña. But Cruz stranded three runners by striking out Maier.
The Royals made it interesting in the ninth, too, after Escobar led off with a single against Grilli. A sacrifice by Jarrod Dyson moved Escobar to second before Yuniesky Betancourt walked.
That put the tying and go-ahead runs on base with one out. But Gordon and Giavotella struck out two more outs with a runner in scoring position.
Royals starter Bruce Chen, 5-6, lost for just the second time in his last seven decisions by giving up three runs and four hits before exiting for a pinch-hitter in the sixth.
Chens only real problem was an inability to solve Andrew McCutchen.
The Pirates wasted no time in grabbing the lead after Burnett breezed through a six-pitch first inning. Alex Presley led off with a single to right and scored on McCutchens one-out RBI double into the right-center gap.
McCutchen did even more damage in the third inning after Walkers two-out single. McCutchen attacked an 86-mph fastball on a 1-2 count and yanking it over the left-field wall for a two-run homer.
Turned out, that was enough.
The Royals didnt get their first base-runner until Hosmer drew a two-out walk in the fourth inning. Maier walked with one out in the fifth and stole second before Burnett hit Alcides Escobar with an off-speed pitch on a full count.
That threat ended when Dyson grounded into a double play.
Chen chose to issue an intentional walk to McCutchen with two outs in the fifth and a runner on second. That runner at second, Presley, was a gift, since he reached on an error by Moustakas and stole second by sliding around Giavotellas tag.
Even so, the intentional walk worked when Casey MeGehee grounded out to third.
To reach Bob Dutton, call 816-234-4352 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter.com/Royals_Report.