Royals position player Chris Owings pitches in KC loss
The ball hung in the clear afternoon sky at Kauffman Stadium for a few seconds, if not longer, though it traveled only 65 feet from home plate. Royals pitcher Homer Bailey camped under it before giving way to ... well, nobody. A routine out instead plopped on the infield grass, a base hit that should come with an asterisk.
And the beginning of a long day.
The Royals unraveled in a circus-like fifth inning, the makings of a 16-1 Rangers shellacking Thursday afternoon in front of an announced crowd of 17,469.
“We’re just not playing well,” manager Ned Yost said.
The Royals (15-29) failed to claim their first series victory in more than a month, a 32-day drought that will accompany them to Los Angeles for this weekend’s series against the Angels. The latest attempt — an afternoon that finished with Chris Owings on the mound, which went about as well as expected — was initially undone by just one half inning.
The dropped popup. A two-base error. Three free passes, including one to push across a run. One throw that oversailed a cutoff man and another in which the cutoff man forgot his assignment.
Bailey (4-4) was replaced during the midst of it, set free after 4 1/3 innings. After a promising couple of frames, he allowed eight hits, six runs (five earned) and four walks.
Better than it finished. Owings, a position player, was tasked with getting the final five outs of the game. The Rangers (19-22) teed off for two home runs and four runs in the ninth, their sixth straight inning scoring at least once. Owings was throwing 65-70 mph.
“Obviously these games aren’t fun, but (I’m) just trying to save the bullpen, save some arms,” said Owings, who had not pitched since high school.
Before putting Owings in the game, Yost asked him if he had thrown a pitch in the major leagues. Owings shook his head. “Well, I don’t think you’ll be able to say that when this day is done,” Yost replied.
The top of the fifth set the stage for it. The game was tied entering the inning, but the first four Rangers hitters reached, one by the kindest of gifts. Willie Calhoun sent a popup skyward. Bailey had a beat on it but moved as Adalberto Mondesi approached. Mondesi never seemed to pick the ball out of the sun.
“That was probably my fault more than anything,” Bailey said. “I heard him coming in, so I didn’t keep backing up. I anticipated him calling me off. It’s my fault more than anything. I saw it the whole way.”
After Yost motioned for relief pitcher Brad Boxberger, he induced a potential inning-ending double-play ball from Rougned Odor. But first baseman Ryan O’Hearn threw the ball into left field to prolong the inning. By the time it all finally concluded, the home crowd provided the Royals a Bronx cheer for completing a routine out on another popup.
To think: The day actually started quite well. Whit Merrifield opened with a leadoff single against Rangers starter Lance Lynn, and Nicky Lopez followed with a double down the right-field line. The Royals managed only one run during the inning, though, a sequence that felt like a missed opportunity.
And it was. Lynn (5-3) settled in afterward. He gave up just that one run over seven innings, allowing six hits and one walk. He struck out five.
Lopez stung him for a pair of doubles. He’s hitting .455 after his first series in the major leagues.
The series began with the Royals scoring nine runs in the initial two innings. They scored just four over the final 24 innings.
“We’re not swinging the bats really well. They did a good job after the first day,” Yost said. “We piled it on early the first couple of innings, and then they really shut us down the rest of the series. We just have to play better.”