Royals manager Ned Yost wasn’t around to see the end of his team’s 3-0 loss to the Houston Astros on Tuesday, and it was just as well.
No Royal reached base after Yost was ejected for arguing the strike zone with home-plate umpire Kerwin Danley in the sixth inning, a streak of futility that actually started an inning earlier.
The meek Royals attack accounted for five singles in the game, and it was the eighth straight game without a home run. Although Yost didn’t witness the entire production, he didn’t soften his assessment.
“We’re making way too many first-pitch outs,” Yost said. “We’re not swinging at our pitch. In crucial situations, we’re taking what the pitcher gives us instead of waiting back and getting a pitch we can drive.”
Yost said his hitters, who rank at or near the bottom of the American League in many power categories, need to be more “confidently patient.”
Don’t miss a pitcher’s mistake, and if he doesn’t make a mistake, bear down with two strikes.
“That’s what big-league hitting is about, that’s what successful big-league hitters do,” Yost said. “When they get their pitch they don’t miss it. If they don’t get it, they get to two strikes and battle their tails off.”
Yost was adamant about crediting Astros starter Collin McHugh, who struck out nine and walking none in seven innings.
His curve was baffling.
“He was sneaky, he was throwing strikes, he threw a great game,” Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “But as an offense we have to find a way to get it done, and we’re not doing that right now.”
As a result, the Astros, who have the American League’s worst record, will go for a sweep in today’s 1:10 p.m. game.
Guthrie was the hard-luck loser, falling to 2-4, but he kept things close when it could have gotten away from him in the sixth.
Guthrie plunked Marc Krauss with two outs. The next hitter, Robbie Grossman, fell behind 1-2 and Guthrie believed he’d thrown strike three. Danley disagreed. Grossman singled.
So did Alex Pressley, and suddenly after a quiet start to the inning the bases were full of Astros.
A gathering at the mound wasn’t led by pitching coach Dave Eiland, which likely would have been the case with no Royal warming in the bullpen. Typically, a pitching change brings out the manager, but Yost wasn’t there to pull Guthrie.
Yost stood on the hill and chatted with Guthrie until Danley arrived to adjourn the meeting. Yost walked a couple of steps with the home-plate ump, and whatever he exchanged with Danley was quick and direct. Danley gave Yost the thumb.
The strike-zone weariness may have had its origins in the fourth inning. Guthrie served up successive one-out walks to Dexter Fowler and Jason Castro, with ball four on Castro a full-count borderline call.
Fowler came around and scored on Matt Dominguez’s single through the middle.
The Astros broke it open in the eighth against reliever Tim Collins, who yielded a double to Castro to open the inning. Castro was on third when Grossman fouled off a suicide-squeeze bunt attempt.
No matter, the Astros ran it again.
This time, Collins skipped a pitch that bounced high and behind catcher Sal Perez and Castro scooted home. Pressley added a sacrifice fly, and given how the Royals were swinging the bats, the three-run cushion was more than enough.
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