The momentum the Royals built in St. Louis and carried into a series-opening win here on Thursday evaporated with one swing of Nomar Mazara’s bat on Friday night.
His two-run shot that bounced off the Globe Life Park fence in left field and into the crowd gave the Rangers a three-run advantage the Royals could only chip at in an 8-4 loss for KC.
Royals rookie starter Eric Skoglund labored through 4 1/3 innings, yielding seven hits and six earned runs. He found himself on the wrong end of an error in the first inning and was hurt by Mazara’s speed in the third — but three home runs did the left-handed pitcher in on Friday.
“They made him pay,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “A couple elevated pitches, Mazara and (Ronald) Guzman. For the most part OK, they just capitalized on some elevation.”
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That trend has held strong all season, and especially of late.
In five May starts, Skoglund has allowed seven home runs over 28 innings. Opponents have hit him at a .302 clip. While he’s shown flashes of superior command in quality starts against the White Sox and Rays this season, he's proven he’s still in development mode. He still needs to perfect his change-up and throw his curveball, often his out-pitch, with better consistency.
On Friday, he was plagued by command issues and an inability to stay ahead in the count for the second consecutive start. He threw 57 percent strikes in a career-high 96 pitches, but he lost touch of his fastball as the outing — his shortest of the season — wore on.
“I wasn’t able to establish the fastball, and that kind of hurt me a little bit,” Skoglund said. “I just didn’t have much feel throwing the curveball for strikes. Command was not there. It’s frustrating.”
Abraham Almonte and Ramon Torres tried to start a seventh-inning rally to take Skoglund off the hook. Almonte singled and then scored when Torres smacked a double that one-hopped the glove of a diving Delino DeShields in center field.
But Rangers reliever Alex Claudio retired the next three batters, stranding Torres at third base.
The Royals had 10 hits, including home runs from Mike Moustakas and Jorge Soler, but they were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position. After Moustakas walked to load the bases with two outs in the ninth, Salvador Perez flew out to deep center field.
“As soon as Salvy hit that ball, it left that bat and for a second I was thinking, ‘Man, this might go far enough.’ But not to be,” Yost said.
Former Royals pitcher Mike Minor got the victory for the Rangers after allowing four earned runs on seven hits.
A couple longer innings: On two occasions, Skoglund could have retired the Rangers’ Mazara to end innings.
But in the first, second baseman Ramon Torres dropped a groundball on the transfer to his bare hand, allowing Mazara to reach first base on the error and forcing Skoglund to throw five more pitches before he could get out of the first inning by striking out Jurickson Profar.
And in the third, Mazara beat Alcides Escobar’s throw from second base on what would have been an inning-ending double play. DeShields, who tripled on the first pitch of the frame, scored on the play to tie the game 2-2.
The bullpen: During a three-game win streak that started Tuesday, the Royals' bullpen tossed 8 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run. Brian Flynn entered in relief of Skoglund on Friday night and threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings to extend the streak. But Blaine Boyer, who pitched the eighth, couldn't keep it alive. In a 29-pitch frame, he yielded two earned runs on two hits, which included Ronald Guzman's RBI triple.
Up next: The Royals, who dropped to 17-34, send Ian Kennedy to the mound to face the Rangers’ Bartolo Colon on Saturday at 3:05 p.m. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1.