Royals

Royals’ seventh-inning bullpen collapse ends homestand on a sour note

Royals relief pitcher Kevin McCarthy had a tough outing against the Mets

Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Kevin McCarthy got ground balls, but didn't get enough outs as he gave up four runs in 1/3 innings against the New York Mets at Kauffman Stadium on Aug. 18, 2019.
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Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Kevin McCarthy got ground balls, but didn't get enough outs as he gave up four runs in 1/3 innings against the New York Mets at Kauffman Stadium on Aug. 18, 2019.

The floodgates opened against the Royals’ bullpen Sunday afternoon, but it wasn’t a matter of issuing free passes or giving up long bombs. This time, it was the death by a thousand paper cuts variety of bullpen meltdown.

The Mets used a six-run seventh inning that featured eight hits and a sacrifice bunt to grab control of the game and send the Royals back out on the road on a losing note.

The Royals carried a one-run advantage into the seventh inning, and they came out on the other side trailing by five. Relievers Kevin McCarthy and Richard Lovelady were done in without giving up one walk as the Royals lost the rubber match of the three-game series 11-5 in front of an announced 20,661 at Kauffman Stadium.

Royals starting pitcher Glenn Sparkman allowed three runs — all in the first inning — on five hits and two walks in six innings. He struck out three and allowed a homer for the fifth time in his past six starts. He left the game with the Royals (44-80) clinging to a 4-3 lead going into the seventh.

“They just struggled to get outs,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of the seventh inning. “Mac came in and a couple of well-placed hits. We just couldn’t get anybody out.”

McCarthy gave up a double to Todd Frazier on a fly ball that blooped in along the right-field line as a pair of defenders converged on it a split-second too late. A sacrifice bunt moved Frazier to third base, and a pinch-hit RBI single through the drawn-in infield by J.D. Davis tied the score.

“I’m trying to pitch to contact always,” McCarthy said. “I didn’t throw many pitches. It kinda happened quick. It is what it is. Ground balls find holes sometimes.”

A double down the right field line by Tomas Nido put runners and second and third, and Amed Rosario hit a two-run single up the middle to make it 6-4 with one out in the seventh.

“As a sinker-baller, you try not to worry about results,” McCarthy said. “But results matter up here. It’s always in the back of your mind, but you’ve just got to get past it and keep trying to get ground balls. It’s what I do. They’ll make the plays.”

Lovelady met a similar fate. He gave up a single up the middle, then Pete Alonso doubled on a ball that hit off the top of the wall just barely in fair territory down the right field line, and Michael Conforto, who homered in the first inning to give the Mets a 3-0 lead, singled through a drawn-in infield as the merry-go-round continued.

Kansas City Royals pitcher Glenn Sparkman registered a quality start with six innings and three runs allowed — all on a first-inning home run — against the Mets at Kauffman Stadium on Aug. 18, 2019. Sparkman left with a lead, but the Royals lost.

The Mets (64-60) scored a total of six runs in the seventh inning and broke the game open. McCarthy gave up four runs on four hits in 1/3 innings, while Lovelady allowed two runs on four hits and didn’t record an out.

“The problem that I’m running into is that a few nights ago, (Brad) Keller had a no-hitter going through six, and I let him go back out and he gives us up a run, and then I bring in a reliever and they give up his (inherited) runners,” Yost said. “(Saturday) night, same thing with (Jakob Junis). I try to get him through the seventh, and they come in and give up his (inherited) runs.

“So today I decide to give the bullpen a clean inning ... let’s let the relievers with a one-run lead to have that clean inning and then get to (Scott) Barlow in the eighth and (Ian) Kennedy in the ninth. It just didn’t work.”

Nicky Lopez’s seventh-inning RBI single drove in the Royals’ fifth run, but the Mets tacked on a run in the eighth via an Amed Rosario RBI double.

Alonso hit his 40th home run of the season in the ninth. He set a National League single-season rookie record for home runs, and he moved within one of tying the Mets’ franchise single-season record (41), which is currently shared by former Royal Carlos Beltran and Todd Hundley.

The Royals begin a seven-day road trip Monday night in Baltimore. The trip will include a three-game series against the Orioles, the completion of the suspended extra-inning game in Boston against the Red Sox on Thursday and a three-game series in Cleveland against the Indians.

Royals right-hander Jorge Lopez (1-7, 6.51) will start Monday’s game opposite Gardner Edgerton High School graduate and Orioles left-hander John Means (8-8, 3.76).

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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.
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