Royals

Royals’ bats stay quiet in 3-2 loss to St. Louis Cardinals

Alex Gordon was congratulated by third-base coach Mike Jirschele after hitting a solo home run during the second inning on Saturday.
Alex Gordon was congratulated by third-base coach Mike Jirschele after hitting a solo home run during the second inning on Saturday. The Associated Press

For manager Ned Yost, who sat inside his dugout as the Royals hitters spent another afternoon with muffled bats, the plays that altered the outcome of Saturday’s 3-2 loss to St. Louis were not Mark Reynolds’ go-ahead homer in the fifth off Jeremy Guthrie or Jason Heyward’s no-look catch of Kendrys Morales’ drive in the eighth.

No, the plays that stood out to Yost involved malfunctions in execution when the Royals placed a runner at third base with less than two outs. Both times — in the first inning and again in the sixth — the team failed to score. The Royals went hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position. When the situation called for it, they could not even manufacture productive outs.

“It’s very difficult. It’s not easy,” Yost said. “But when you’re not in an offensive slump, you’re not in a slump because you are executing in those situations. If we had gotten a ball in the air one of those two times, we would still be playing. And if we would have gotten a ball in the air two of those times, the game would be over and we probably would have won it.”

Instead, the Royals, 34-25, fell for the second game in a row. The defeats sapped some momentum from a club that had just swept Minnesota and reclaimed the lead in the American League Central. The offense scuffled for most of that series at Target Field, but after scoring seven runs on Wednesday, they looked prepared to roll once more.

The momentum did not follow them to Busch Stadium. The Royals managed five hits. Two of them were home runs, by Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez. Both occurred without a runner on base. The team has averaged about two runs per night in their last 12 games.

“The offense hasn’t really done a whole lot lately,” Gordon said. “You’ve got to put some of that on us. We’ve got to get the job done a little better.”

Trailing by a run in the sixth inning, Yost faced a choice. There were two outs and runners at the corners. Due up to hit was Christian Colon, starting in the place of Mike Moustakas, who received a day off because St. Louis started a southpaw pitcher. Now right-handed reliever Matt Belisle was on the mound.

Rather than pinch-hit Moustakas, Yost stuck with Colon. He struck out quickly. Yost provided a series of reasons for his decision: He cited opposing right-handed batters entered the game hitting .290 against Belisle. The Cardinals also had lefty specialist Randy Choate warmed up. Yost wanted to double-switch Moustakas into the pitcher’s spot in the batting order for the next inning, to allow himself the ability to use Kelvin Herrera in case Franklin Morales, tasked with the bottom of the inning, landed in an emergency.

It was a convoluted situation, but Yost insisted he felt the offensive upgrade was small. There was a fourth, unspoken reason. St. Louis manager Mike Matheny could have intentionally walked Moustakas. The bases would have been loaded, but they would have been loaded for second baseman Omar Infante. Midway through the second season of a four-year, $30.25 million contract, Infante’s swings grow more feeble by the day. He went hitless in four at-bats on Saturday to reduce his batting average to .204.

Yost went out of his way to praise Infante’s defense after the game.

“He’s doing things that can help us win ballgames,” Yost said.

Yet Infante, along with Alex Rios, continues to string together fruitless at-bats. The offense never awoke on Saturday afternoon. The Royals did put two men on again in the eighth, but St. Louis closer Trevor Rosenthal bested Gordon with a 3-2 fastball. Gordon popped up for the inning’s third out.

The summer in St. Louis can be sweltering. The temperature rose into the upper 80s, with sun cooking the diamond during batting practice just past noon. Inside the dugout, Lorenzo Cain pondered the quirks of the big-league schedule.

“Who invented day games?” he called out to no one in particular. “We’re humans. Not robots.”

Cain has been mired in a slump for weeks. He woke up, momentarily, with a one-out double in the first. It was his first extra-base hit since June 4. Next he stole third base. Here the Royals confronted the downside of Yost’s reconfigured lineup.

St. Louis put Lance Lynn, their starter for Saturday, on the disabled list Friday afternoon. In his place the Cardinals recalled southpaw Tyler Lyons, who punishes left-handed hitters with sliders. So Yost sat Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. The only reason Gordon played is because the bench lacked another right-handed hitting outfielder.

The more curious decision involved his batting order. Yost installed Rios into the No. 3 hole, the usual home for a club’s most accomplished hitter. In his first 10 games back, after missing six weeks with a broken bone in his left hand, Rios hit .118 with a .314 on-base plus slugging percentage.

“We keep expecting Alex Rios to get hot here, real quick,” Yost said before the game. “Maybe this will jump-start him a little bit. I don’t know.”

Now the Royals required a productive at-bat, a grounder or a flyball or, perhaps, even a hit, to advance Cain home from third. Instead Rios struck out. He waved at a change-up outside his reach to end the at-bat. Kendrys Morales struck out afterward to strand Cain.

Gordon devised a cure for the common batting slump in the second. He blasted a solo shot into the right-field seats. Yost had gushed about Lyons’ slider before the game. This one sat at the thighs, and Gordon tattooed it.

The Cardinals answered in the third. Kolten Wong led off with a triple. Matt Carpenter tied the game with a hit into right field. Rios threw to Alcides Escobar, who swiped a tag across Carpenter as he tried to stretch for a double.

The defense in the rest of the inning was less sublime. Mark Reynolds collected an infield single from a throw from Infante pulled Morales off first base. After a hit by Yadier Molina, Jason Heyward rolled a third single past Infante’s grasp to give St. Louis the lead.

“The tough one was with two outs in the third, when they strung all those hits together,” Guthrie said. “I felt like I made some good pitches. And we weren’t able to get that last one.”

Kansas City retaliated with apparently the only weapon at its disposal. The Royals situational hitting has disappeared and they never will lead the majors in walks. But the hitters can still, on occasion, run into a fastball. Perez did so in the fourth to tie the game.

Guthrie maintained the deadlock into the fifth. Then he hung a curveball to Reynolds, a first baseman prone to whiffs but in possession of frightening power. Reynolds walloped a solo shot.

“He did a good job,” Guthrie said. “Hit my mistake.”

Just past 4:45 p.m., as the fifth inning ending, the sky about Busch Stadium flickered to gray. A downpour fell soon after. The rain scattered the fans and delayed the game for 24 minutes. When it resumed, the Royals offense never resurfaced.

“Sometimes you go through slumps like this, as a team offensively,” Gordon said. “But we’ll get out of it. We’ve got a good enough team here with good enough leaders that we’ll be OK.”

Cardinals 3, Royals 2

TableStyle: SP-basebattersCCI Template: SP-basebatters

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Escobar ss

4

0

0

0

0

1

.255

Cain cf

4

0

2

0

0

1

.284

Rios rf

4

0

0

0

0

2

.197

Morales 1b

4

0

0

0

0

1

.281

Perez c

4

1

2

1

0

1

.285

1-J.Dyson pr

0

0

0

0

0

0

.254

Butera c

0

0

0

0

0

0

.167

Gordon lf

3

1

1

1

1

0

.259

Colon 3b

2

0

0

0

1

1

.261

Morales p

0

0

0

0

0

0

---

Herrera p

0

0

0

0

0

0

---

Davis p

0

0

0

0

0

0

---

a-Hosmer ph

1

0

0

0

0

0

.298

Infante 2b

4

0

0

0

0

2

.204

Guthrie p

1

0

0

0

0

0

.000

Moustakas 3b

2

0

0

0

0

1

.318

Totals

33

2

5

2

2

10

 

TableStyle: SP-basebattersCCI Template: SP-basebatters

St. Louis

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Wong 2b

4

1

2

0

0

0

.300

Carpenter 3b

4

0

1

1

0

0

.290

Peralta ss

4

0

0

0

0

1

.317

Rosenthal p

0

0

0

0

0

0

.000

Reynolds 1b

4

2

2

1

0

2

.258

Molina c

4

0

2

0

0

0

.278

Heyward rf

4

0

2

1

0

0

.257

Grichuk lf

3

0

0

0

0

1

.263

Belisle p

0

0

0

0

0

0

---

Choate p

0

0

0

0

0

0

---

Maness p

0

0

0

0

0

0

.000

Siegrist p

0

0

0

0

0

0

---

Kozma ss

1

0

0

0

0

1

.102

Jay cf-lf

2

0

0

0

2

1

.226

Lyons p

2

0

1

0

0

1

.167

Bourjos cf

0

0

0

0

0

0

.253

Totals

32

3

10

3

2

7

 

TableStyle: SP-basebyinningsCCI Template: SP-basebyinnings

Kansas City

010

100

000

2

5

2

St. Louis

002

010

00x

3

10

2

a-grounded out for W.Davis in the 9th.

1-ran for S.Perez in the 8th.

E: Rios (1), C.Colon (3), Wong (9), M.Carpenter (6). LOB: Kansas City 7, St. Louis 8. 2B: L.Cain (11). 3B: Wong (2). HR: A.Gordon (8), off Lyons; S.Perez (10), off Lyons; Reynolds (4), off Guthrie. RBIs: S.Perez (29), A.Gordon (29), M.Carpenter (32), Reynolds (19), Heyward (18). SB: L.Cain (11), Wong (5). S: Guthrie, Bourjos.

Runners left in scoring position: Kansas City 5 (K.Morales, A.Escobar 2, C.Colon, A.Gordon); St. Louis 5 (Reynolds, Lyons, Grichuk 2, M.Carpenter). RISP: Kansas City 0 for 7; St. Louis 2 for 11. Runners moved up: K.Morales, M.Carpenter.

TableStyle: SP-basepitchersCCI Template: SP-basepitchers

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

NP

ERA

Guthrie L, 4-4

5

10

3

3

1

4

102

5.79

Morales

1

0

0

0

1

0

16

2.81

Herrera

1

0

0

0

0

1

8

1.96

Davis

1

0

0

0

0

2

13

0.33

TableStyle: SP-basepitchersCCI Template: SP-basepitchers

St. Louis

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

NP

ERA

Lyons W, 1-0

5

3

2

2

1

6

79

5.00

Belisle

11/3

0

0

0

1

2

17

2.05

Choate

1/3

0

0

0

0

0

2

3.18

Maness

2/3

1

0

0

0

0

13

3.52

Siegrist

1/3

0

0

0

0

0

5

1.63

Rosenthal S, 21

11/3

1

0

0

0

2

23

0.59

Holds: Belisle (7), Choate (6), Maness (7), Siegrist (12). Inherited runners-scored: Siegrist 1-0, Rosenthal 1-0. IBB: off Guthrie (Jay), off Belisle (A.Gordon).

Umpires: Home, Will Little; First, Phil Cuzzi; Second, Gerry Davis; Third, Tony Randazzo. Time:2:46 (Delay: 0:24). Att:45,981.

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @McCulloughStar.

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