One inning makes the difference as Royals drop series finale against Phillies

The rain relented, the Royals grabbed an early lead and their starting pitcher Jakob Junis looked sharp and strong with a four-seam fastball as good as he’d thrown it all season.

For about four innings, it actually looked as though a Mother’s Day full of sunshine and rainbows was in the forecast. Then the clouds rolled back in.

In the span of one inning, the Philadelphia Phillies eliminated the Royals’ slight lead, knocked Junis out of the game and gave their rookie starting pitcher all the cushion he needed.

The Royals suffered a 6-1 loss in front of an announced 19,640 at Kauffman Stadium in the rubber match of their three-game set with the Phillies. The Royals continue to chase their first series win since April 12-14, when they swept Cleveland.

The Royals (14-27) are off Monday, and they’ll begin a three-game series Tuesday night against the Texas Rangers at Kauffman Stadium.

They’ll have to hope a little rest and a new opponent will reignite an offense that scored one run in the final 18 innings of its series with the Phillies (23-16).

Phillies rookie left-hander Cole Irvin stifled the Royals offense for seven innings. One night after having been shut out by the Phillies, the Royals managed just five hits and one run against Irvin in his major-league debut. He struck out five and walked one.

“As an offensive player, you’ve just got to look at the last two days and say, ‘Hey, if you put up one run, that’s not going to get it done’,” Royals left fielder Alex Gordon said. “I don’t know what to tell you.”

Junis allowed five runs (four earned), three hits and a career-high five walks in 4 1/3 innings. All five runs came in the fifth inning. He failed to get through five innings for just the second time this season.

Gordon’s third-inning broken-bat single into left field with runners on first and second drove in the game’s first run. Catcher Cam Gallagher scored from second, but Phillies left fielder Nick Williams threw to third to try to get the trail runner, Billy Hamilton.

Hamilton and third baseman Maikel Franco got tangled up as Williams’ throw took him into Hamilton’s path. Hamilton was initially called out, and that out may have occurred before Gallagher crossed home plate. Upon review, the out call at third was reversed to give the Royals a 1-0 lead.

Junis cruised through the first three innings — he’d given up one hit and one walk while having struck out four — and worked out of a minor jam in the fourth. He got a ground out by Cesar Hernandez with runners on the corners and two outs in the fourth.

“Everything just kind of came to a head there in the fifth inning,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “We had the one-run lead at that point. It’s difficult trying to protect a one-run lead against a team like that, especially with guys that can take you out of the ballpark.”

In the fifth, Williams reached on an error by Adalberto Mondesi, who fielded a slow roller but couldn’t make the switch from glove to throwing hand. The ball squirted away from him and fell harmlessly to the turf.

Junis then walked Andrew McCutchen and gave up an RBI single to Jean Segura with the Phillies’ two biggest bats, Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins, coming to the plate and the score tied 1-1.

Harper, a dangerous left-handed hitter with power, is a former National League MVP. He reached 400 career extra-base hits earlier this season. The last three players to reach that benchmark at a younger age than Harper are likely future Hall of Famers Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols.

Junis got to 2-2 on Harper but couldn’t get the put-away pitch he needed. He walked Harper to load the bases for Hoskins, the only player with more than 60 home runs and 145 walks since he made his big-league debut in August 2017.

“I had Harper right where I wanted him,” Junis said. “I just didn’t make that good two-strike pitch that I needed to get him out. Three-two, it wasn’t a challenge pitch. It was a slider that I left arm-side that wasn’t even going to garner a swing. Once he got on, I definitely didn’t want to make a mistake over the middle of the plate to Hoskins.”

Junis walked Hoskins to force in the go-ahead run. Yost then went to left-hander Richard Lovelady out of the bullpen with J.T. Realmuto, an all-star catcher and Silver Slugger winner, due up and left-handed hitting Odubel Herrera behind him.

Realmuto lined a two-run doubled to right field, and Herrera poked a two-run single into center as the Phillies ran their total to six runs in the inning.

Neither team scored in the final four innings.

“I fell behind in the count a couple times when I really needed to get ahead,” Junis said. “It just came back to bite me.”

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.