OAKLAND, Calif. — The script changed Sunday for the Royals, but not the ending as they concluded a three-game weekend pratfall in the East Bay with a 4-3 loss to the Oakland A’s.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
“We had the lead in all three games,” left fielder Alex Gordon said, “but give them credit. They came back and pulled it off late. They did it to us three days in a row.”
The A’s capped their sweep when Yoenis Cespedes opened the eighth inning with a no-doubt homer against Kelvin Herrera — that’s eight homers yielded by Herrera in his last 14 innings.
“That was a good pitch,” Herrera insisted. “Finally, I made a good pitch, but he was just jumping the fastball. Today, I threw a pitch right where I wanted it, but he just got it.
“It was down and away, but he’s got power, and he made good contact. … Another one.”
Oakland scored the tying run in the seventh inning by capitalizing on a two-base error by center fielder David Lough, who whiffed on Derek Norris’ leadoff single.
“If I had gone with my instincts, I would have got to the ball,” Lough said, “I kind of hesitated, and then pulled up. The ball then took one of those sharp hops and just got by me. It hit the top of my glove and got by me.”
And there you have it. A bloop, a bungle and a blast.
The loss completed a three-game sweep at the O.co Coliseum and dropped the Royals back to .500 at 20-20. They dropped the two previous games 2-1 when James Shields and Ervin Santana couldn’t protect early one-run leads.
Three one-run losses.
“Anytime you can sweep a team that's playing pretty decent baseball, it doesn't really matter how you do it,” Norris said. “It's definitely a plus for us.”
Not too decent recently: The Royals have lost 10 of their last 13 games and now trail first-place Cleveland by four games in the American League Central Division.
Herrera, 2-4, got the loss. The victory went to Jerry Blevins, 3-0, when Ryan Cook worked around two two-out singles in the ninth for his first save.
The Royals made it interesting at the end and had runners at second and third when slumping Mike Moustakas capped a zero-for-five day by grounding out to second on a full-count pitch
“I’m battling, there’s no getting around it,” said Moustakas, whose average dipped to .178. “I’m hitting what I’m hitting, and it is what it is. But I want that situation every time. I want to be there.”
Royals starter Luis Mendoza carried a 3-2 lead into the seventh but surrendered Norris’ leadoff single, which skipped past Lough for a two-base error.
Manager Ned Yost went to the bullpen for Bruce Chen, and the A’s countered by sending up Adam Rosales as a pinch-hitter for Eric Sogard. Rosales flied to short right on the first pitch, and Norris held at third.
The Royals shortened their infield with one out, but it didn’t matter. Coco Crisp sent a drive to deep-enough left for a sacrifice fly that pulled the A’s even at 3-3.
That meant no-decisions for Mendoza and Oakland starter A.J. Griffin, who gave up three runs in six innings but generally limited damage.
Hideki Okajima gave up a one-out double to Gordon in the seventh on a checked swing that served a ball just fair down the left-field line. It was Gordon’s fourth hit, which matched a career high.
After an intentional walk to Billy Butler, Okajima retired Eric Hosmer on a soft topper up the first-base line. The runners moved to second and third, but the Royals failed to score when Moustakas grounded out to first.
That missed chance, like others, haunted the Royals in the end. They stranded 12 runners and it meant Mendoza had no cushion in the Oakland seventh.
Blevins pitched around a two-out single in the eighth before Cespedes tagged a 96-mph fastball from Herrera for the game-winner.
“It shows some tenacity,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “That when you get down, you don't worry about it.”
The Royals opened the scoring in the third after Chris Getz drew a one-out walk and went to third on Alcides Escobar’s single through the right side. Escobar’s single snapped a zero-for-12 skid.
Gordon followed with an RBI single into center that moved Escobar to third, but Griffin avoided further damage when Butler took a borderline third strike.
It marked the third straight game the Royals took an early 1-0 lead over the A’s. The two previous games ended in 2-1 losses.
“One-run losses are never fun,” Gordon said. “We’ve just got to move on. We’ve got a big series with Houston coming up. We need to play well and come out of this road trip with some positives.”