Royals

Oakland continues mastery of Royals as KC offense searches for spark

Royals starter Jason Hammel watched as the Athletics' Khris Davis scored on a single by Yonder Alonso in the fourth inning of Wednesday's game at Kauffman Stadium.
Royals starter Jason Hammel watched as the Athletics' Khris Davis scored on a single by Yonder Alonso in the fourth inning of Wednesday's game at Kauffman Stadium. jsleezer@kcstar.com

Maybe this is penance for that one September night in 2014, cosmic justice for a performance known in Kansas City by four words: The Wild Card Game.

How else to explain an eighth straight defeat at the hands of the Oakland A’s, with three of those losses by at least eight runs, a stretch of domination that continued Wednesday with the Royals’ 8-3 loss at Kauffman Stadium.

Maybe you can blame karma. You could also start with an anemic offense. The Royals were nearly shut out for a second straight game, opening their home schedule with 19 scoreless innings. Their bats were rendered useless by a 28-year-old pitcher named Andrew Triggs, a former Royals farmhand who unleashed punishment on the team that drafted him.

On a day that began with the completion of a bullpen reshuffle and the arrival of two fresh arms, the Royals dropped to 2-6 this season. It ended with another quiet clubhouse, the Royals searching for a spark, hoping to avoid a second sweep in three series on Thursday night.

“We’ve just got to come out with some energy,” Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “Not that we’re not, but it just seems like we’re flat right now. Nothing can really get going offensively, defensively, pitching-wise. So we’ve just got to get better, plain and simple.”

The night included an inefficient outing from starting pitcher Jason Hammel, who was nicked for four runs in 4  2/3 innings. That was a mere superficial blemish next to an offense now mired in a deep rut.

The Royals entered the night just 6 for 41 with runners in scoring position, the worst mark in the major leagues. The anemic output included a 0-for-7 performance on Monday afternoon in the home opener.

And then came more of the same on a cool and breezy night at Kauffman Stadium. Hosmer grounded into an inning-ending double play in the first inning. Salvador Perez opened the second with a double, only to have Brandon Moss, Cheslor Cuthbert and Alcides Escobar combine to strand him there.

Hosmer, Perez and Moss would do the same to Lorenzo Cain in the fourth.

Ned Yost discusses offense after 8-3 loss to Oakland 

The Royals were hitless in their first seven at-bats with runners in scoring position. They finished the night 8 for 52 in those situations after eight games.

As the A’s whacked away at Hammel, the game slowly slipped away in the middle innings.

There is no perfect explanation for the offensive struggles. Some of it is the fluky nature of sample size, perhaps. Some of it is a bottom third of the order that has underperformed against even meager expectations. Some of it is proven hitters who are still trying to lock in.

Hosmer cited the need for a spark. Royals manager Ned Yost preached the need for more patience.

“At times, they’re a little overaggressive,” Yost said. “But they’ll work that all out.”

This offensive effort came against Triggs, a 28-year-old journeyman of sorts, a right-hander drafted by the Royals in the 19th round of the 2012 draft. For three seasons, Triggs passed through the Royals’ system, advancing to Class AAA Omaha by 2014. The following April, he was sent to Baltimore for cash. He bounced to the A’s in the spring of 2016 and landed in the starting rotation.

On Wednesday night, he held his first franchise in check for seven innings, a performance that undoubtedly had to elate him. The Royals’ scoreless innings streak stretched to 19 when Escobar flied out to right field in the bottom of the seventh. It finally ended when Cain drove in Raul Mondesi with an infield single in the bottom of the eighth.

The stretch began Sunday, after Brandon Moss clubbed a solo homer in the top of the ninth at Minute Maid Park. The slumping offense has been a joint venture. Hosmer entered Wednesday batting .179 (5 for 28) before grounding into his league-leading fourth double play and striking out in his first two-bats. He finished the night 1 for 4 with an RBI, raising his average to .188.

Moss had opened the season 1 for 16 before suffering through another 0-for-4 night, his batting average slipping to .050. As the night ended, more than half of the Royals’ regular lineup was hitting below .200, the don’t-wanna-see-it Mendoza line.

The sample size is far too small for harsh judgment, but the results thus far have not been encouraging for a club in desperate need of a strong start in 2017. A collection of looming free agents has raised the stakes during the season’s first half. The Royals have dug a small hole during the season’s first 10 days.

“I know it’s a small sample size,” Hosmer said. “Whatever you guys and we’re looking at, it’s not pleasant. We just got to figure out a way to get it better.

“I’m not going to say we’re not competing. The guys are doing everything we can. It’s just not getting done. That’s not good enough in this league.”

Hosmer spoke in a direct and blunt manner. But for now, the disquiet vibe has mostly been confined to the stands and panic-stricken corners of the internet. It has not appeared to creep into the Royals’ clubhouse, which was business as usual Wednesday afternoon.

Still, the Royals have signaled the need for urgency. On Tuesday, the club optioned struggling reliever Matt Strahm after he battled command problems for three appearances. On Wednesday afternoon, Yost sat in his office and said there was little time to allow Strahm to work through his issues at the major-league level.

“I don’t have time for that right now,” Yost said. “I don’t have time to ‘work through it.’ ”

For the moment, the philosophy has not been extrapolated out to Mondesi, the 21-year-old second baseman who entered Wednesday batting .143 (3 for 21). As Royals general manager Dayton Moore stood on the field before the game, he stressed the importance of players developing at the major-league level. The Royals, Moore said, believe that Mondesi in the lineup at second base offers them the best chance to win.

Six hours later, Mondesi had delivered some moments of hope, hitting three balls hard, scoring two runs and clubbing a 436-foot homer to center field in the ninth. For the Royals, it was already too late. But on this night, it was something.

“I (was) just trying to do too much,” Mondesi said. “But now I feel better, working under control. So we’ll see what happens.”

So, too, will the Royals. After eight games, the formula has yet to engineer the right result. It’s just eight games, of course. But as Hosmer stood in front of his locker late Wednesday night, he was clear about one thing. It cannot continue.

“Plain and simple,” Hosmer said, “it’s just got to get better.”

Athletics 8, Royals 3

Oakland

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Semien ss

3

2

0

0

2

1

.172

Joyce rf

4

0

1

1

1

0

.185

Lowrie 2b

3

0

1

3

1

1

.290

K.Davis lf

5

1

2

0

0

2

.353

Vogt c

5

1

2

0

0

0

.286

Healy dh

4

1

2

0

1

0

.194

Alonso 1b

5

0

1

1

0

1

.308

Plouffe 3b

2

2

1

1

1

0

.179

R.Davis cf

4

1

2

2

0

0

.206

Totals

35

8

12

8

6

5

 

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Gordon rf

4

0

0

0

1

0

.182

Moustakas 3b

4

1

1

0

0

1

.290

Cain cf

4

0

3

1

0

1

.308

Hosmer 1b

4

0

1

1

0

1

.188

Perez c

3

0

1

0

0

0

.290

Butera c

1

0

0

0

0

0

.000

Moss lf

4

0

0

0

0

1

.050

Cuthbert dh

4

0

0

0

0

0

.182

Escobar ss

4

0

1

0

0

1

.179

Mondesi 2b

3

2

1

1

1

0

.167

Totals

35

3

8

3

2

5

 

Oakland

001

214

000

8

12

1

Kansas City

000

000

021

3

8

0

E: Triggs (1). LOB: Oakland 8, Kansas City 7. 2B: Lowrie (3), Vogt (3), Healy (2), R.Davis (3), Moustakas (1), Cain (1), Perez (1). HR: Mondesi (1), off Montas. RBIs: Joyce (4), Lowrie 3 (5), Alonso (6), Plouffe (2), R.Davis 2 (5), Cain (2), Hosmer (3), Mondesi (2). SB: Semien (4). SF: Lowrie, Plouffe.

Runners left in scoring position: Oakland 4 (Lowrie, Vogt 2, R.Davis); Kansas City 3 (Moss 2, Escobar). RISP: Oakland 4 for 14; Kansas City 2 for 11. Runners moved up: Alonso 2, Hosmer, Moss. GIDP: Lowrie, Alonso, Hosmer. DP: Oakland 1 (Lowrie, Semien, Alonso); Kansas City 2 (Mondesi, Escobar, Hosmer), (Butera, Hosmer).

Oakland

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Triggs W, 2-0

6

4

0

0

1

3

90

0.00

Dull

1

0

0

0

0

1

13

9.00

Hendriks

1

3

2

2

1

0

27

5.40

Montas

1

1

1

1

0

1

22

1.69

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Hammel L, 0-1

4 2/3

7

4

4

2

4

94

6.52

Wood

 2/3

1

2

2

1

0

16

20.25

Young

 1/3

3

2

2

1

1

16

6.75

Alexander

2 1/3

0

0

0

0

0

18

0.00

Junis

1

1

0

0

2

0

16

0.00

Inherited runners-scored: Wood 1-0, Young 2-2, Alexander 2-0. WP: Hammel 2. Umpires: Home, Dana DeMuth; First, Mark Wegner; Second, Clint Fagan; Third, Chris Guccione. Time: 3:07. Att.: 24,380.

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