Late Sunday night, Royals manager Ned Yost will board a plane destined for his farm in Georgia. A group of Royals players will return to Kansas City, while many others will head their separate ways.
For four days, they will savor a reprieve from a full-on rebuild comprised of more frustration than triumph, more questions than answers.
After Sunday — and the three-plus months that preceded it — the break couldn’t come soon enough.
The Royals completed the worst first half of a season in franchise history in a fitting manner, the wrong end of a 10-1 blowout Sunday against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.
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The all-star break awaits this week, which will mark the first time since the March 29 season opener that the Royals will go four days without losing a baseball game.
“It’s been tough. Losing sucks, and we’ve lost a lot,” Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield said.
“It’s not fun to go through losing streaks,” Royals pitcher Danny Duffy said. “We feel every loss, and it hurts.
“We’ve been doing our best to treat each day like a new day. There’s an opportunity to win a baseball game every day.”
The follow-through has seen the Royals (27-68) win only 28 percent of their games in the first half of 2018, the pitching staff and lineup equally blameworthy.
No staff in baseball has allowed more runs than the Royals, whose earned run average is nearly half a run worse than any of their 29 competitors. No team has scored less often than the Royals, not even the 15 who are required to put a starting pitcher in their everyday batting lineups.
“The frustration has really started to mount here the last two days,” Yost said before repeating the message he told his players after Sunday’s loss. “Just catch your breath, and we’ll see them on Friday ready to go.”
The final day of the first half offered something of a microcosm. With starter Jakob Junis not yet prepared for a removal from the disabled list, the Royals tasked their bullpen with a full game’s workload. Each of the first four pitchers who stepped on the mound departed it having allowed at least one run.
Right-hander Burch Smith, the lead-off man in the equation, allowed two runs in the opening frame. Brian Flynn gave up two more over two innings. Enny Romero was stung for another five and recorded just three outs. And Jason Adam allowed one in his single inning of work.
The bullpen has been perhaps the most noticeable dissimilarity from the competitive teams that ushered in this year’s group, who stack up a rebuild three years removed from a World Series.
A member of that rebuild process produced the brightest moment Sunday. Shortstop Adalberto Mondesi crushed a ball over the centerfield fence, his third home run of the season. A prize of the Royals’ farm system, Mondesi also doubled to the warning track in left center.
“I’m just staying short to the ball and looking for a good pitch,” Mondesi said. “I put a good swing on it, and a good result came.”
Much too little. The Royals failed to win their first series since May 30, a drought that spans 14 opponents.
They will send one representative to the All-Star Game in Washington, D.C. — catcher Salvador Perez, who on Saturday learned he had been inserted into the game’s starting lineup.
The remainder of the roster will step away from the game for the first time in 15 weeks.
“There’s a much more needed mental break than physical break,” Merrifield said. “We’ll enjoy that, step away and reset.”