Royals

Royals close out season with 3-2 loss to Indians, finish 81-81

Royals starter Ian Kennedy looked away as the Indians’ Yan Gomes rounded the bases after hitting a two-run home run in the third inning Sunday at Kauffman Stadium. The Indians went on to beat the Royals 3-2. The Royals ended their season with a 81-81 record.
Royals starter Ian Kennedy looked away as the Indians’ Yan Gomes rounded the bases after hitting a two-run home run in the third inning Sunday at Kauffman Stadium. The Indians went on to beat the Royals 3-2. The Royals ended their season with a 81-81 record. jsleezer@kcstar.com

In the moments after the final out, after fans at Kauffman Stadium had stood for one more ovation, and the Royals had suffered one more loss — a 3-2 decision to the Cleveland Indians on Sunday afternoon — Alex Gordon strolled through the middle of a bustling clubhouse and placed a plate of hot food on a middle table.

All around Gordon, the senior member of this room, were handshakes and hugs and goodbyes and grown men packing their bags for the offseason. In one corner, Edinson Volquez hugged bench coach Don Wakamatsu. In another, Mike Moustakas cradled his baby daughter. On one side of the room, closer Wade Davis packed his belongings and cleared out his locker. In another, close friends Danny Duffy and Kris Medlen shared a final clubhouse talk.

And in the middle of it all was Gordon, who began to dig into his plate of food before looking up, noticing a teammate about to leave.

“Don’t be a stranger,” Gordon called out.

Read Next

This was Kauffman Stadium on Sunday afternoon, as the 2016 Royals put their season to rest, as a group of professionals showed up to say goodbye. For seven months, the defending World Series champions came together each day, hoping to rescale the mountain together, and by the end, perhaps it was fitting that they finished with a 81-81 record — the first .500 season in franchise history.

This was a disappointing season, one marred by injuries and fatigue. This was a turbulent season, one dotted by wild streaks and emotional swings. And yet, this was also a hopeful season. Because the core of the defending champions will return in 2017, and because the wounds of 2016 will soon scar over. Because after everything that happened over the last seven months, Gordon says, they still kept pushing.

“It was a little tough,” Gordon said. “Everybody went out there and played hard. But at the end, we didn’t reach our goal, which was to make the playoffs and hopefully do what we did last year.

Read Next

“You’re not going to do it every year,” Gordon continued. “But hopefully, we can come back fresh next year and reach our goals.”

On Sunday afternoon, the Royals had one last chance to finish with a winning season. Instead, they finished the year with four straight losses, suffering a three-game sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Indians, the team that supplanted them atop the American League Central.

Starter Ian Kennedy allowed three runs and four hits in 7  2/3 innings, taking the loss in his final start. The offense managed just two runs against Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin before coming up empty against Indians relievers Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.

Read Next

The struggling offense was a season-long theme. After 162 games, the Royals finished 13th in the American League in runs scored, averaging just 4.16 runs per contest. The run production will likely be a chief priority entering the offseason. A season ago, a Kansas City lineup squeezed out 4.47 runs per game, and this time, the difference was palpable.

This year, of course, there were injuries. Moustakas tore his ACL. Lorenzo Cain strained his hamstring and sprained his wrist. Gordon broke a bone in his hand. By the end, the defending world champions were reduced to a shell.

“It was tough, you know?” Eric Hosmer said. “It was an up-and-down year.”

Read Next

As Hosmer spoke, teammates continued to scurry around the room. And in some ways, it all felt strange. For two seasons, the Royals had played deep into the postseason, shedding tears after a Game 7 loss to the San Francisco Giants in the 2014 World Series and popping champagne after lifting the World Series trophy last fall in New York. This time, the calendar said Oct. 2, and the Royals packed up and went home.

“We’ve been spending every day of the last eight months with each other,” Hosmer said. “It’s definitely different. We’ll all go home and you’re kind of just lost for a couple of days. You don’t know what to do.”

If the Royals felt odd Sunday, perhaps their fans did, too. A crowd of 29,475 packed into Kauffman Stadium, and all afternoon, fans offered a series of polite goodbyes. In the top of the eighth, as the Indians scored the go-ahead run and the game began to slip away, a “Lets Go, Royals” chant broke out behind the first-base dugout, spreading from section to section. Moments later, when Kennedy exited the game — finishing with a 11-11 record and 3.68 ERA in his first season in Kansas City — the crowd came to its feet and cheered again. And when the bullpen door swung open in the ninth, and Davis emerged, the crowd stood for one final time.

Read Next

“They’re a great team,” Kennedy said. “It’s a frustrating way to lose, on a day like today.”

As the afternoon began, the Royals pieced together a 1-0 lead against Tomlin in the bottom of the first inning. Jarrod Dyson led off with a double to right field, and Whit Merrifield followed with a line drive that carried over the head of left fielder Rajai Davis

The Indians struck back against Kennedy, scoring twice in the top of the third. Kansas City answered in the bottom of the fifth, tying the game on a solo homer by rookie third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert.

In his final start, Kennedy pitched into the eighth inning. But a walk to Carlos Santana and a double by Jason Kipnis put runners at second and third with one out in the inning. Royals manager Ned Yost stuck with Kennedy, reluctant to use a tapped-out bullpen. Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor served a go-ahead sacrifice fly into right field. And that was that.

The Royals had two innings to conjure one final magic act. But the moment came and went. And 20 minutes later, Gordon stood at his locker and kept talking about a disappointing 2016 and the hope for the future. Maybe you can’t do it every year, he said. Maybe there were too many injuries. Maybe he just didn’t perform. But 2017, of course, is a new year. And they will be back.

“We were just one win away from having a winning season,” Yost said. “And we had four cracks at it, and we just couldn’t get it.”

Indians 3, Royals 2

Cleveland

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Santana 1b

3

1

0

0

1

1

.260

Kipnis 2b

3

0

2

0

0

0

.275

Lindor ss

3

0

0

1

0

0

.301

Napoli dh

3

0

0

0

1

2

.239

Ramirez 3b

4

0

1

0

0

1

.312

Chisenhall rf

4

0

0

0

0

0

.286

R.Davis lf

4

0

0

0

0

1

.249

Naquin cf

3

1

0

0

0

1

.296

Martinez cf

0

0

0

0

0

0

.242

Gomes c

2

1

1

2

0

0

.167

Gimenez c

0

0

0

0

0

0

.216

Crisp ph

1

0

0

0

0

0

.208

R.Perez c

0

0

0

0

0

0

.183

Totals

30

3

4

3

2

6

Royals

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Dyson cf

3

1

1

0

0

0

.278

Burns ph-cf

1

0

0

0

0

1

.243

Merrifield 2b

4

0

2

1

0

0

.283

Morales 1b

3

0

0

0

0

0

.263

Nava 1b

1

0

0

0

0

0

.091

S.Perez dh

3

0

1

0

1

1

.247

Gore pr-dh

0

0

0

0

0

0

.000

Orlando rf

4

0

0

0

0

2

.302

Gordon lf

3

0

0

0

0

0

.220

Escobar ss

3

0

0

0

0

1

.261

Cuthbert 3b

3

1

1

1

0

0

.274

Butera c

3

0

1

0

0

0

.285

Totals

31

2

6

2

1

5

Cleveland

002

000

010

3

4

0

Kansas City

100

000

010

2

6

0

2B: Kipnis 2 (41), Dyson (14), Merrifield (22). HR: Gomes (9), off Kennedy; Cuthbert (12), off Tomlin. RBIs: Lindor (78), Gomes 2 (34), Merrifield (29), Cuthbert (46). CS: Gore (2). SF: Lindor.

LOB: Cleveland 5, Kansas City 3. Runners moved up: Lindor, Morales. GIDP: Morales. DP: Cleveland 1 (Santana, Lindor, Tomlin).

Cleveland

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

ERA

Tomlin W, 13-9

7.1

6

2

2

0

3

4.40

Miller H, 25

0.2

0

0

0

0

1

1.55

Allen S, 32-35

1

0

0

0

1

1

2.52

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

ERA

Kennedy L, 11-11

7.2

4

3

3

2

3

3.68

Soria

0.1

0

0

0

0

1

4.05

W.Davis

1

0

0

0

0

2

1.87

Inherited runners-scored: Soria 2-0. HBP: Kennedy 2 (Naquin,Kipnis). T: 2:26. A: 29,475.

Related stories from Kansas City Star

  Comments