On a sweltering day at Kauffman Stadium, the hottest place was under the Royals’ collar.
Two players — Mike Moustakas and Danny Duffy — were ejected for arguing with home plate umpire John Tumpane as the Royals fell to the Astros 7-4 on Sunday, extending their losing streak to six.
Moustakas was tossed in the third inning after he was called out at home on a superb play by left fielder Marwin Gonzalez.
Attempting to score from second on Salvador Perez’s single, Moustakas appeared to have the advantage, but Gonzalez fired a one-hop strike to catch Brian McCann.
Still, Moustakas believed he was safe on the bang-bang play, even after replay confirmed the call.
“I thought I was safe and I still think I’m safe,” Moustakas said. “If he had called me safe originally, I don't think they would have had evidence to overturn it.”
With Hunter Dozier at the plate, Moustakas started to let Tumpane have it.
There’s a history here.
Moustakas has been ejected three times in his eight-year major league career. Twice, Tumpane has given him the thumb, previously for arguing a strike call in Baltimore last August. Ned Yost also got tossed in that argument.
Also, it was Tumpane who ejected former Royals reliever Peter Moylan in a game at Kauffman against the Blue Jays last June.
This time, Tumpane allowed a little chirping before running Moustakas, who was serving as the Royals’ designated hitter Sunday.
“While the next pitch was coming in, Moustakas was yelling from the dugout,” crew chief Mark Wegner said. “After the pitch (Tumpane) addressed him. He continued to yell and he was ejected.”
Ned Yost left the dugout to argue with Tumpane, which would have been an automatic ejection if he was griping about replay. That wasn’t the case. Yost wanted to vent about the Moustakas ejection.
“I just wanted to know what the deal was,” Yost said.
Dozier saved the inning by blasting a two-run homer that gave the Royals a 4-2 lead. For the first time in 11 games, the Royals had scored more than three runs in a game.
The Royals weren’t through confronting Tumpane. Duffy, who started Saturday’s game, said he was fed up with the strike zone, especially a called third strike on Alex Gordon in the fifth inning, and let Tumpane know it. Duffy was tossed in the sixth, the first ejection of his career.
“All I said was, 'Be better,’ and he tossed me,” Duffy said. “Just trying to stick up for your teammates.”
As for the play the plate, Duffy said the dugout was stunned, and frustrated with Tumpane.
“We all thought (Moustakas) was safe,” Duffy said. “Maybe I’m seeing it with biased eyes and there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn it. ... We were pretty much all in shock. But we get punked by replay all the time.
“I’m personally tired of getting punked by Tumpane. I think we all are. And I think it needs to be looked at. I’m not saying there’s bias there but I’m sure it will go back to whoever it needs to go back to.”
The outcome spoiled a solid outing by Royals starter Brad Keller, who surrendered three runs in six innings and left the game with a 4-3 lead.
Keller was making his fourth start after spending his first few weeks with the team as reliever. He’s increased his innings with each start and was at his best in the sixth when the Astros put runners and first and third with nobody out and didn’t score.
“I think I feel more comfortable with every outing,” Keller said “That's just kind of the big thing, just getting back into the swing of starting and getting deeper into the games and stuff like that.”
The Astros got a game-tying home run from Carlos Correa off Brandon Maurer, summoned from Class AAA Omaha on Friday, to open the eighth and they tacked on two more runs on the way to an 11 th consecutive victory.
The Royals are headed in the opposite direction but perhaps got some fortune in the second inning after Whit Merrifield fouled a ball off his left knee and had to leave the game. The report was a bruise and he’s listed day to today.