After the Royals lost 3-2 to the Indians on Wednesday night, manager Ned Yost took a seat in the Kauffman Stadium interview room and chose not to waste time.
"Erratic," he said into the microphone.
Then he paused briefly. With a grin, he turned to Josh Vernier, a reporter for 610 Sports Radio, and said, "Your questions are the same every night, so I just went ahead and answered it."
The teasing offered a brief reprieve from the fact the Royals had just been swept in a three-game set for a second consecutive series despite the pitching holding the Indians to four hits in Wednesday's finale. From the fact the offense, by way of Whit Merrifield in the eighth and Alex Gordon in the ninth, tallied late doubles on Wednesday but did nothing with them.
The levity didn't last long, as Yost detailed the struggles of rookie pitcher Trevor Oaks ("Command. Struggled to get the ball down. Hot, humid night.") and resigned himself to the reality of his team's shortcomings.
"We didn’t have opportunities to manufacture runs," Yost said. "We had opportunities with runners in scoring position that we couldn’t capitalize on. And that’s been a major problem for us all year long."
The Royals tried on multiple occasions to bail Oaks out against Indians starter Trevor Bauer, who threw 7 2/3 innings and allowed seven hits. They executed a two-out double steal that allowed Gordon to steal home in the second inning and score the Royals’ first run of the game. They hadn’t successfully stolen home since Alex Rios did it nearly three years ago on July 20, 2015.
The Royals cut their deficit to 3-2 in the fifth. Alcides Escobar, who logged a hit in consecutive games for the first time since he hit in six straight from May 29-June 4, moved to third base when Drew Butera poked a fastball through the right side of the infield. Then Escobar scored on Merrifield's sacrifice fly.
Rosell Herrera kept the inning alive by drawing a walk. But Salvador Perez struck out on a pitch that bounced in front of home plate to end the threat.
With another chance to tie the game in the eighth, Merrifield was caught trying to steal third base after his lead-off double.
"My keys were right and I got a good jump," he said. "I executed on my end. The pitch was basically a pitch-out to the left, and (Perez) made a perfect throw. He got me this time. It was the right play in that situation."
The Royals wasted another opportunity in the ninth. After Gordon hit a one-out double off Indians closer Cody Allen, Hunter Dozier and Alcides Escobar struck out in back-to-back at-bats to end the game.
The Royals were 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position on the night.
Oaks battles command: Oaks, who arrived a few hours before the game to make a spot start in place of the injured Ian Kennedy, allowed three runs on a pair of sacrifice flies and a Michael Brantley double. Although he allowed only two hits, Oaks struggled to locate his sinker and issued four walks in four innings.
The humidity, he admitted, had gotten to him. Oaks found himself constantly applying rosin, trying anything to get a better grip on the baseball. Yet the sweat continued to drip down his arm and wreak havoc on his command.
"It was the lead-off walks and not having good command," Oaks said. "Luckily I had a good slider, which bailed me out of bad counts."
A double steal that almost went awry: With Butera in a 0-2 count, Dozier broke for second base, baiting a throw from Indians catcher Roberto Perez. Dozier stopped halfway to the bag to trick second baseman Jason Kipnis into a rundown. Yet as Dozier scooted back to first base and Kipnis did a few double-takes over his shoulder, Gordon darted a few feet up and down the third base line before finally committing to his break.
Kipnis fired an off-target throw to third baseman Jose Ramirez, who fell into foul territory to catch the ball and rushed to make the transfer as he crashed to the ground. When Perez finally got the ball back, Gordon was diving into the plate. Gordon’s right hand swiped the corner right before the ball fell out of Perez’s glove in his haste to apply the tag.
"We got lucky," Yost said.
Up next: The Royals, who dropped to 25-61, host the American League East-leading Boston Red Sox for a three-game series that begins Friday night.