Royals still waiting for offense to kick in

Updated: 2013-04-23T05:36:12Z


The Kansas City Star

— The doubleheader sweep Sunday in Boston can’t completely obscure the Royals’ low-watt run production and, in particular, the continuing struggles of their two young cornerstone infielders.

First baseman Eric Hosmer offered a hopeful glimpse by going four for nine in the two games, which raised his average to .261, although that followed a three-for-23 skid over the previous nine games.

But third baseman Mike Moustakas remains a gaping hole in the lineup after seeing his average sink to .158. He also has just one RBI in 15 games.

“They’re not going to get going while on the bench,” manager Ned Yost said. “There’s nothing you can do until they get going. You just ride it.”

The problem goes deeper than Moustakas and Hosmer. The Royals entered the week averaging just 4.0 runs a game, which ranks 11th among the 15 American League teams.

Outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon are providing consistent production, but designated hitter Billy Butler, the club’s player of the year in three of the last four seasons, is batting just .216.

“It’s obvious I’m not in a groove for whatever reason,” admitted Butler, who nonetheless delivered a game-tying homer Sunday in the eighth inning of the second game.

“But I’ll work through it and get it right. I always have.”

Yost believes the offense will find a rhythm once the weather warms and the schedule works through its frequent April open dates.

“It’s not an excuse,” he said, “but until we can start playing some games consistently, and get into an offensive routine, it’s hard to get any continuity going.

“We’ve got some guys who haven’t got really untracked yet. When they do, it’s going to be a fun little venture.”

Setting the lineup

The slow offensive start is, Yost admitted, taxing his preference for a set lineup. He rolled out a new look Saturday in Boston that moved Hosmer into the cleanup role.

“Trust me,” Yost said, “I’ve been thinking about the lineup the whole time. I just really hate moving guys around game to game. I’m trying to get some semblance of a regular order.”

The same basic order remained intact for Sunday’s doubleheader and, likely, will continue through the three-game series against the Tigers.

“The thing right now is nobody deserves to hit in the fourth spot,” Yost said. “We’re trying to split up the lefties. We’re hoping Hos gets untracked. I think he’s close. He’s still a little anxious at times.

“Ideally, if Hos is Hos, he fits best in the three (spot) and Billy in the four. But we’re not there yet.”

Rotation locked in

The Royals, despite their sputtering attack, are 10-7 and in first place largely because their rebuilt rotation continues to match or exceed expectations.

The unit owns a 3.29 ERA while posting 10 quality starts through 17 games and pitching through the sixth inning on 14 occasions.

“Our pitching,” Cain said, “I can’t say enough about those guys. They really kept us in the game. They’ve been very dominant. They’ve held us in games. We’re just trying to make plays behind them.”

The Royals are 3-2 through the first two stops on their current three-city trip primarily because their rotation shut down baseball’s two hottest teams — Atlanta and Boston.

The Braves had won 10 straight before Wade Davis and the bullpen combined last Wednesday for a 1-0 victory, and the Red Sox were on a seven-game run prior to Sunday’s doubleheader.

Those two clubs also, not coincidentally, sported the majors’ two best earned-run averages. But the Royals’ starters yielded fewer runs (nine to 12) while working just one fewer inning (33 to 34) in the five games.

“It’s going to go in cycles,” Yost said. “There will be times when the offense is carrying the pitching. But right now, we’re OK.”

Ratings winners

Fox Sports Kansas City continues to set ratings records for its Royals telecasts.

The three weekend games in Boston drew a 7.0 rating for the Kansas City area, which is the highest ever for a single series in FSKC’s 11-plus seasons of coverage.

The previous record was a 6.9 rating for the three-game home series earlier this year against Minnesota.

The doubleheader Sunday also produced the second- and fifth-highest game ratings in FSKC’s coverage history. The opener averaged a 7.4 rating, while the night game averaged a 7.1 rating.

FSKC’s all-time best single game rating was a 7.5 for the May 6, 2009 game against Seattle. The Royals entered that game at 16-11 and in first place in the American League Central Division.

The record ratings success includes the pre- and postgame shows between Sunday’s doubleheader. The postgame show following the opener posted a 5.9 rating, while the pregame show for the second game drew a 3.4 rating.

Minor awards

Class AA Northwest Arkansas outfielder Brett Eibner is the Texas League player of the week for April 15-21 after going 10 for 21 with three homers in five games.

It was, perhaps, the best week of his professional career and followed a two-for-34 start to the season..

Eibner, 24, was a second-round pick in 2010 after a standout career at Arkansas, but he has struggled to reach his potential. He batted a combined .203 over 196 games in 2011-12 with 255 strikeouts in 695 at-bats.

Looking back

It was 27 years ago Tuesday — April 23, 1986 — that George Brett passed Amos Otis as the franchise’s all-time leader in hits.

Brett got his 1,978th career hit on a first-inning double against Dennis Rasmussen in a 2-1 loss to the Yankees at then-Royals Stadium.

Brett finished his career with 3,154 hits. Frank White later passed Otis for second on the franchise list with 2,006. Otis remains third at 1,977.

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