On the bright side, the Royals get three more cracks at the division-leading Tigers before the All-Star break, three more chances to chip away at a 5 1/2-game deficit in the AL Central.
Of course, if the series continues like it started Thursday, next week’s four-day break can’t get here soon enough for the Royals.
During the first of four games that could breathe life into the Royals’ playoff hopes entering the break or bury Ned Yost’s bunch in the standings, the Tigers outclassed their closest competition, spanking the Royals 16-4 before a crowd of 21,775 at Kauffman Stadium.
“We got it handed to us tonight,” designated hitter Billy Butler said. “That happens in baseball, but you just move on.”
The Royals, 47-44, returned to Kansas City around 3 a.m. from a nine-game road trip that ended above .500 thanks to Salvy Perez’s game-winning, three-run, ninth-inning blast Wednesday against the Rays.
But momentum in baseball is only as good as the next day’s starter — and Jeremy Guthrie struggled.
“We didn’t pitch good tonight,” Yost said. “That’s the bottom line, and that’s why they scored a bunch of runs. ... (Guthrie) was just struggling with command. It just wasn’t his night.”
For the second consecutive start, Guthrie lasted only four-plus innings. He was shelled for six runs on 11 hits in four-plus innings during a 7-3 loss Saturday in Cleveland.
Guthrie wasn’t any better against the Tigers, who lit him up for eight runs — all earned — on eight hits with three walks and two hit batters.
“I overthrew a lot of pitches and couldn’t get any big outs,” Guthrie said.
When Torii Hunter led off the fifth by mashing a 428-foot moonshot to left field for a 7-2 lead and Nick Castellanos followed with a single, Yost had seen enough.
But there was no relief forthcoming for the Royals, who hadn’t allowed more than 12 runs or 16 hits this season before the Tigers totaled 16 runs on 19 hits, including three from Hunter and two apiece from Castellanos, Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez, Eugenio Suarez and Don Kelly.
If anything, the Tigers’ assault ramped up against veteran lefty Scott Downs, who has appeared in four games in five days since being plucked from the free-agent scrap heap, and Louis Coleman, who was recalled before the game from Class AAA Omaha when Jason Vargas went on the disabled list.
Alex Avila and Suarez greeted Downs with ringing doubles.
With two away and Coleman in the game, five straight Tigers batters reached safely, including RBI singles by Kinsler, Martinez and Hunter.
Castellanos polished off an eight-run frame with an RBI double that had the Royals buried 14-2.
“The good thing is it only counts as one, so hopefully they got all their runs out of the way and hits out of the way today,” said first baseman Eric Hosmer, who extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a first-inning single and added a two-run home run in the seventh inning.
It didn’t take long Thursday for the Royals to run into trouble.
Guthrie coughed up three first-inning runs and got tagged for three more in the fourth, capped by Cabrera’s two-run double off the wall in left.
Despite the shellacking, the Royals had a few reasons to cheer.
Leading off the bottom of the fourth, Butler blasted a majestic 406-foot home run — his third of the season — into the left-field fountains.
“I felt good to run into one,” Butler said. “It sucks it came in a game like this, but I put a good swing on a ball and hopefully I can build on it.”
Hosmer 414-foot laser to right-center in the seventh inning, his sixth home run of the season and second in as many games, also provided reason to roar.
It marked the first time Hosmer homeered in consecutive games since Aug. 16, 2013, when he went deep in both games of a doubleheader at Detroit and the first time Hosmer and Butler homered in the same game since June 28, 2013.