Royals

After the tears and tributes, Royals fall 2-0 to A’s in home opener

Royals starting pitcher Ian Kennedy waits for Oakland’s Khris Davis to round the bases on his two-run home run in the fourth inning Monday at Kauffman Stadium.
Royals starting pitcher Ian Kennedy waits for Oakland’s Khris Davis to round the bases on his two-run home run in the fourth inning Monday at Kauffman Stadium. jsleezer@kcstar.com

At just past 2:21 p.m. on Monday, Eric Hosmer and Kelvin Herrera pressed through a tunnel inside Kauffman Stadium and arrived at the top step of the Royals’ dugout, where Marisol Hernandez was standing, cloaked in a jersey of her late son.

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Hernandez, mother of former Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura, had come to throw out the first pitch before the home opener against the Oakland A’s, to celebrate Ventura’s life in front of a sold-out crowd of 40,019.

As Marisol stood along the rail, standing beside her father Raul, peering out at the field where their Yordano became famous, the Royals came out to pay their respects. Hosmer and Herrera arrived first. Then the others.

“We talked about the day, how beautiful it was,” Royals infielder Christian Colon said. “I gave her a huge hug. And I told her, ‘Look, I’m your son, too. We all are.’

“She did a lot better than all of us, for sure.”

The raw emotions — the tears and grief and memories — would crest during a pregame tribute for a fallen teammate, lost Jan. 22 in a car crash in the Dominican Republic. The Royals, inspired by the presence of Marisol and the spirit of her son, could not sustain the emotion or channel the energy onto the field.

“It was very difficult,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “That was hard for all of us."

In a 2-0 loss, the offense fell flat against A’s starter Jharel Cotton. As another baseball season returned to Kansas City, the Royals were shut out in a home opener for the first time since 1971.

Cotton, a 25-year-old right-hander, threw seven scoreless innings in just his seventh major-league start. The Royals mustered just three hits while striking out 12 times.

On the whole, the trend lines pointed down for a second straight day. In seven games, the Royals (2-5) have averaged just three runs per game, nullifying a starting rotation that has posted a collective 2.88 ERA.

Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost answers questions following his team's home opener loss to the Oakland Athletics on Monday, April 10, 2017, at Kauffman Stadium.

In consecutive losses on Sunday and Monday, they struck out an astonishing 29 times. The number included a 12-inning game on Sunday, so a small caveat perhaps, but the two-game strikeout total had not been eclipsed in 20 years.

In the moments after the loss, Yost sought to credit Cotton, an emerging starter with one of the most lethal change-ups in the game. But he could not ignore the offensive blackout during the season’s first eight days.

“(Cotton) was dynamite today,” Yost said. “But on the flip side, we’re just not swinging the bats. We haven’t got off to a good start offensively as a group.”

The issues, you might say, have surfaced at both the macro and micro level. After seven games, only Salvador Perez (.286 with four homers) and Mike Moustakas (.296 with three homers) have been locked in. They have also been anemic at the worst times, hitting .146 (6 for 41) with runners in scoring position.

“Moose is swinging the bat OK,” Yost said. “Salvy is swinging the bat OK. And the rest of us are still trying to find our way a little bit.”

Tribute to Yordano Ventura brings emotional wave to Royals players

Like, say, designated hitter Brandon Moss, who stepped to the plate in the ninth inning with two runners on and offered an at-bat that serves as a decent illustration for this young season. In the winter, the Royals gave Moss $12 million over two seasons, hoping to tap into a proven power source. Moss clubbed 28 homers in 128 games last season, and before a brutal late-season funk, he appeared destined for a nice payday. But as he strode to the plate to face Oakland closer Sean Doolittle with runners on first and third, he was just one for his first 13.

That the left-handed Moss was even hitting against the southpaw Doolittle was mildly surprising. But Yost would say that the Royals pondered a right-handed pinch hitter before feeling most comfortable with Moss. The wind was howling to right field. A’s slugger Khris Davis had already rode the gusts to a two-run homer against Royals starter Ian Kennedy in the fourth inning. The blast was the difference in the game.

“We discussed it, like we do all the time,” Yost said. “But with the wind blowing out — we saw it with Davis’ home run — and left-handed pitching does not suppress Moss’ power, and that’s what we needed at that point.”

The statement was slightly dubious. In 11 seasons, Moss has hit 120 of his 139 career homers against right-handed pitchers — though when adjusted for plate appearances, the argument is closer. Moss has averaged a homer every 20.4 appearances against right-handers, compared to one every 35 plate appearances against lefties. And Moss felt comfortable facing a former teammate in Doolittle.

Four fastballs later, Moss had struck out for the third time.

Kansas City Royals DH Brandon Moss struck out against former teammate Sean Doolittle to end Monday's 2-0 loss to Oakland and also said A's starter Jharel Cotton was tough to hit.

“I was just hoping to be ready for a heater, and hopefully he missed middle or middle-in with one,” Moss said. “And he really didn’t. Tip your hat and move on. He challenged me with his best pitch and he won.”

The lack of run support turned Kennedy into a hard-luck loser. He allowed just two runs in six innings. The damage came on one 3-0 pitch in the fourth.

Kennedy opened the inning by surrendering a bloop single to Ryon Healy. He then fell behind 3-0 on Davis. As Davis awaited the offering, Kennedy grooved a fastball that was supposed to be down and away. Instead, it moved back in the zone. And Davis, who hit 42 homers last season, skied a high fly ball into the gusting wind. The baseball disappeared into the first row of the porch in right-center field.

Royals pitcher Ian Kennedy gave up the only runs Monday when Oakland's Khris Davis hit a two-run homer to right-center that was helped by a 17 mph wind. KC lost 2-0.

Off the bat, Kennedy would say, the baseball seemed destined to stay in the yard.

“Then you quickly realize how hard it’s really blowing,” he said.

The same crosswind had robbed Perez of a potential homer to left field in the second inning. Yet after nine scoreless innings, the Royals had little room to gripe. On a picturesque Monday in Kansas City, they had mourned a teammate, opened a season at Kauffman Stadium, and confronted a sleepy offense.

In a quiet clubhouse, the Royals saw little connection between the emotions of Monday afternoon and the flat performance. Nobody will forget the feelings of this day, the sight of Marisol Hernandez on the mound, or the pictures of Ventura on the video board. But as they braced for a day off on Tuesday, and prepared to enter the grind of 162 games, they would like to forget the feeling of a shutout.

“We know the quality of hitters that we have on this team,” Yost said. “And we just have to wait for the bats to get hot.”

Bobby Kerr of Blue Springs was dressed for the Kansas City Royals home opener Monday against the Oakland A's at Kauffman Stadium.

Athletics 2, Royals 0

TableStyle: SP-basebattersCCI Template: SP-basebatters

Oakland

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Semien ss

4

0

0

0

0

2

.192

Joyce rf

4

0

1

0

0

0

.174

Healy dh

4

1

1

0

0

1

.156

K.Davis lf

4

1

1

2

0

0

.345

Vogt c

3

0

2

0

1

0

.261

Lowrie 2b

4

0

0

0

0

0

.286

Alonso 1b

3

0

0

0

1

2

.333

Plouffe 3b

3

0

0

0

0

1

.154

R.Davis cf

3

0

1

0

0

0

.167

Totals

32

2

6

2

2

6

TableStyle: SP-basebattersCCI Template: SP-basebatters

Royals

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Gordon lf

4

0

0

0

0

2

.207

Moustakas 3b

4

0

0

0

0

2

.296

Cain cf

2

0

1

0

2

0

.227

Hosmer 1b

3

0

0

0

1

1

.179

Perez c

4

0

1

0

0

0

.286

1-Gore pr

0

0

0

0

0

0

Moss dh

3

0

0

0

1

3

.063

Orlando rf

3

0

0

0

0

1

.125

Escobar ss

3

0

0

0

0

2

.167

Mondesi 2b

3

0

1

0

0

1

.143

Totals

29

0

3

0

4

12

TableStyle: SP-basebyinningsCCI Template: SP-basebyinnings

Oakland

000

200

000

2

6

1

Royals

000

000

000

0

3

0

1-ran for Perez in the 9th.

E: Plouffe (1). LOB: Oakland 5, Kansas City 6. 2B: Vogt (2). HR: K.Davis (4), off Kennedy. RBIs: K.Davis 2 (6). SB: R.Davis (1), Cain (3).

Runners left in scoring position: Oakland 1 (Joyce); Kansas City 4 (Cain, Perez, Moss, Orlando). RISP: Oakland 0 for 3; Kansas City 0 for 7. Runners moved up: Gordon. GIDP: Plouffe, Orlando. DP: Oakland 2 (Plouffe, Lowrie, Alonso), (Alonso, Plouffe); Kansas City 1 (Escobar, Mondesi, Hosmer).

TableStyle: SP-basepitchersCCI Template: SP-basepitchers

Oakland

I

H

R

ER

W

K

P

ERA

Cotton W, 1-1

7

2

0

0

3

6

98

3.97

Casilla

1

0

0

0

0

3

16

0.00

Doolittle S, 1

1

1

0

0

1

3

24

0.00

TableStyle: SP-basepitchersCCI Template: SP-basepitchers

Royals

I

H

R

ER

W

K

P

ERA

Kennedy L, 0-2

6

6

2

2

2

4

99

4.09

Moylan

2

0

0

0

0

1

17

0.00

Minor

1

0

0

0

0

1

16

5.40

Hold: Casilla (1). WP: Cotton.

Umpires: Home, Chris Guccione; First, Dana DeMuth; Second, Mark Wegner; Third, Clint Fagan. Time: 2:50. Att: 40,019.

AP-WF-04-10-17 2319GMT

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