For the first time in days, the Royals can't blame a loss on their starting pitcher.
The Royals lost 2-1 to the Rays on Monday at Kauffman Stadium after stranding the tying run at third base.
Before that, they saw rookie starter Eric Skoglund throw a career-high 7 2/3 innings, receive a standing ovation from a sparse crowd and surrender no free passes.
In each of his 11 previous major-league starts, Skoglund issued at least one walk. He issued none Monday and struck out four while allowing two runs on seven hits.
"He was down in the zone. He attacked," said manager Ned Yost. "They beat him going the opposite way, which is good hitting, taking what he gave them. Good fastball, good curve, good change-up, elevated when he wanted to. Threw the ball extremely well."
All the Royals needed was length from a starting pitcher. And on Monday, Skoglund provided that in multiple ways. He used his 6-foot-7 frame to his advantage on a few comebackers, and in one instance whipped out his arm to glove a chopper hit by Wilson Ramos in the first inning, starting a double play at second base.
But most importantly, Skoglund pitched beyond the sixth inning. No Royals starter had done that since Skoglund pitched 6 1/3 innings in a no-decision Wednesday at Baltimore. The futility from the starters who followed forced Yost to tax the bullpen for 18 innings between Wednesday and Sunday.
How they lost: The Royals tallied six hits but were 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position. With the chance to tie the game in the ninth inning after Jon Jay's one-out triple, Ryan Goins, who was subbed into the game in the eighth when Cheslor Cuthbert's back spasmed, struck out looking at Alex Colome's cutter on the far corner. Then Alex Gordon grounded out to end the game.
With the score tied 1-1 in the sixth, Rays shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria blew threw third-base coach Matt Quatraro’s stop sign when Matt Duffy shot a single into right field.
As Jorge Soler scooped up the ball and threw a 97 mph strike toward home plate, Hechavarria side-stepped a diving Salvador Perez. Hechavarria circled home as Perez scrambled to apply a tag and was ruled safe after touching the plate, his whole body on the first-base side.
The Royals did not challenge the call.
"I thought the play was gonna be like a bam-bam play, pretty close," Perez said. "As soon as I caught the ball, I was looking for him to jump and tried to tag him.
"He just moved to the other side. I tried to follow him, follow his body. He did a tremendous job changing hands. You guys saw that. That’s pretty good for him."
Whit Merrifield has quietly hit safely in eight straight games. He went 3 for 4 with a game-tying leadoff homer in the third inning. He jumped on a first-pitch fastball he saw from Rays starter Ryan Yarbrough, who recorded his first major-league win as a starter while limiting the Royals to one run on five hits and three walks.
Up next: The Royals, who fell to 13-28, will turn to Ian Kennedy in Tuesday’s 7:15 p.m. home game against the Rays.