SURPRISE, Ariz. — The Royals’ once-impressive lead atop the Cactus League continued to slip away Tuesday in a 7-2 loss to Colorado at Surprise Stadium.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
That makes four losses in five games and trimmed their lead to one game over second-place Seattle, pending the outcome of the Mariners’ night game against San Francisco.
The Royals, now 17-6-1, grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second when Mike Moustakas launched a no-doubt, one-out homer to right against Colorado starter Juan Nicasio. The ball struck the facing of the party deck.
Not much went right after that.
Jeremy Guthrie carried a shutout into the fifth inning before weakening. The Rockies turned seven singles into four runs over the next two innings. In all, Guthrie gave up four runs and eight hits in six innings.
“I thought that was the best outing of the spring for him,” manager Ned Yost said. “He had good action on all of his pitches. He commanded the ball really well. He’s getting close.
“His pitch count (75) was right where we want it to be.”
Colorado put the game away with a three-run ninth against Greg Holland.
Closer Greg Holland endured his worst outing in seven spring appearances when he surrendered three runs and four hits while walking a batter and throwing a wild pitch in just two-thirds of an inning.
Before that, Aaron Crow retired five of six hitters, including three on strikeouts, after replacing Jeremy Guthrie to start the seventh inning.
“We wanted to give ups-and-downs to Crow and Holland,” manager Ned Yost said. “(Holland) came in and got us out of the (eighth) inning and ran into a little trouble after that. But that won’t normally happen during the season.”
Lefty Francisley Bueno stranded runners at second and third after replacing Holland with one out in the ninth. Bueno has allowed just one run in eight innings over his last seven outings.
Mike Moustakas had a homer and single in three at-bats, which raised his average to .426 (20 for 47).
But Alex Gordon, Alcides Escobar, Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, Salvy Perez, Jeff Francoeur and Lorenzo Cain were a combined two for 17.
Third baseman Mike Moustakas flashed Gold Glove form in handling a hot smash down line by Troy Tulowitzki with two outs in the first inning.
Moustakas made a diving stop, set himself after regaining his feet and threw a dart to first that easily retired Tulowitzki.
Read what you want into this, but the competition between Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza for the final spot in the rotation will shift later this week to minor-league games.
“One is an off-day,” manager Ned Yost said, “and the other is (James) Shields’ day. So there’s no significance to that.
Chen is slotted to start Thursday, which is an open date on the big-league schedule. Mendoza will pitch Friday in a minor-league game, while Shields pitches against the Angels in the regular game.
Competition at second base: Chris Getz had a double in two at-bats, which boosted his average to .342 (13 for 38), while Johnny Giavotella struck out in his only at-bat, which dropped his average to .268 (11 for 41).
“In all of these spots,” Yost said, “I’m making a conscious effort (not to jump to a decision). We’ve got 10 days left. I’m not going to make a decision 10 days out.
“I’m going to give them a full opportunity to compete it out to the point where we make a decision.”
The Royals announced and presented their minor-league organizational awards in a courtyard ceremony prior to their morning workout.
The top two recipients, outfielder Wil Myers and right-hander Jake Odorizzi as the George Brett Hitter of the Year and Paul Splittorff Pitcher of the Year, were not present. They were traded Dec. 9 to Tampa Bay.
Myers and Odorizzi will receive their awards in the mail.
Class A Wilmington outfielder Brett Eibner received the Frank White Defensive Player of the Year award., and short-season Burlington outfielder Terrance Gore was the Willie Wilson Baserunner of the Year.
Class AA Northwest Arkansas shortstop Alex McClure was the Mike Sweeney Award recipient, which recognizes a player’s contributions on and off the field.
Dominican Academy field coordinator Victor Baez received the Dick Howser Award for outstanding contributions to the Player Development Department.
Colin Gonzalez was picked as winner of the Art Stewart Award, which recognizes an outstanding scout. Gonzalez is the area scout in Southern California. He was unable to attend and will receive his award later this season.
Kevin Linton received the Matt Minker Award as the organization’s outstanding minor-league affiliate employee. He works as the director for community affairs at Class A Wilmington.
The Royals conclude a stretch of four games in four days at Surprise Stadium by playing host Thursday to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Right-hander Wade Davis is slotted for his first Cactus League start since March 3. He missed one cycle through the rotation because of a sore shoulder before returning to action last Friday in a minor-league game.
Relievers J.C. Gutierrez, Tim Collins, Donnie Joseph and Louis Coleman are also scheduled for work.
Royals (RHP Wade Davis) vs. Dodgers (TBA), at 3:05 p.m. Central time in Surprise, Ariz.
“ He got me pretty good. He took a chip out of the back of my helmet.”
— Outfielder Lorenzo Cain, on being hit in the head on a pickoff throw by Colorado starter Juan Nicasio in the fifth inning.
Countdown to Opening Day: 12 days