It was a step in the right direction Tuesday when Mike Moustakas broke a zero-for-18 slide with an RBI single in the eighth inning that erased a one-run deficit in what became a 7-3 victory over Houston.
Moustakas termed it “a relief” but also recognized it for what it was.
“One hit is not going to do anything,” he acknowledged. “It’s not going to completely turn anything around, but it was a hit in a big situation for us. And it gives me confidence going into (Wednesday’s) game.”
Moustakas has emerged as the poster child for an underperforming attack and a youth movement that has yet to fully find its footing. It isn’t just him (of course), but he draws the spotlight as a former No. 2 overall pick.
Manager Ned Yost insists he sees growth in the 24-year-old despite a .176 average through 40 games after going hitless in three at-bats in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss. Moustakas has just two hits in his last 41 at-bats.
“Last year, when he struggled,” Yost said, “I mean he was a mess. There were times when you’d have to sit him for a ‘mental day.’ This year, he’s been in a great frame of mind.
“For him — and it’s been tougher lately — but when we win, he’s happy. That’s the way it should be. He knows he’s going to produce over time. As long as we’re winning, he understands we’re in good shape.
“He’s going to be fine.”
Moustakas has never been a big believer in studying videotape, and his latest struggles have only reinforced the notion that he needs to simplify his approach. Less analysis; not more.
“You know,” he said, “I did change some things (recently), and I think that’s what got me scuffling even more. I was trying to do some things I’m not used to doing.
“I started thinking about where my hands are or about doing something different with my feet or standing in the box different. I was doing all of that instead of just trusting in what I know I can do.
“That’s what I’m going back to. Just trusting in my abilities and going up there and hitting.”
The lack of video study doesn’t necessarily mean a casual work approach.
“Everybody has their own way of doing things,” Yost said. “The key to is that you work it. If you’re not using video and not going to the cage and not taking extra BP or are not worried then we’ve got problems.
“But this kid is in the cage with Jack (Maloof, the hitting coach) all of the time. They’re talking about at-bats. They’re talking about seeing pitches. They’re talking about everything he needs to do to be successful.”
Moustakas remains convinced his approach will work.
“I’m different than a lot of these other guys,” he said. “Some guys like to watch film. Like Billy (Butler), he gets in there and watches film all day. He’s able to break it down. Gordo (Alex Gordon) does the same thing.
“I’ll watch film from when I was going good. I don’t break down everything I’ve done. I just try to find a couple of at-bats where I look comfortable, see what I was doing and work from there.”
Catcher Salvy Perez got another day to rest his bruised right hip but should return Thursday to the starting lineup for the series opener against the Los Angeles Angels at Kauffman Stadium.
Backup George Kottaras started for the second straight game.
Perez suffered the injury in the fifth inning of Monday’s series opener at Minute Maid Park when he slammed into a post in front of the Houston dugout while pursuing a foul pop.
“I think the best thing to do is to give him one more day,” Yost said. “I would say real likely (to play Thursday).
“It’s a bruise. Could he play (Wednesday)? Yeah. Would one more day benefit him? Yes, it could benefit him a great deal. So let’s give him one more day. George has been playing well.”
Kottaras drove in the Royals’ only run Wednesday with an RBI double in the third inning.
It’s Ervin Santana’s turn to face his long-time teammates for the first time Thursday when the Royals open a four-game series against the Angels.
“It’s just normal,” he insisted. “It’s the same game, just a different team. I’m not going to try to do too much. I’m just going to pitch my game. I’m just going to go with my best stuff, and that’s it. Try to make it simple.”
Santana, 30, spent 12 years in the Angels’ system before coming to the Royals in a Oct. 31, 2012, trade for minor-league reliever Brandon Sisk. It was a salary-dump move by the Angels.
This will be the third major reunion in less than a month for a member of the club’s rotation. James Shields beat Tampa Bay 8-2 on April 30, and Jeremy Guthrie beat Baltimore 6-2 on May 9.
At the top
Second baseman Chris Getz is the latest player to get a look at the top of the lineup in the search to find a suitable replacement for Alex Gordon, who was shifted May 9 to third in the order.
“Just trying to find someone who is comfortable up there,” Yost admitted. “Getzie has been swinging the bat better. For me, much better in his last few games. We’ll give him a look.”
Getz responded by going one for three with a walk and is now three for eight with two walks in his last three starts after enduring a four-for-46 slide.
The Royals previously tried Alcides Escobar (three games), Jarrod Dyson (three games, now injured), Lorenzo Cain (three games) and David Lough (three games) in the leadoff role.
“Cain was kind of like Escobar,” Yost said. “He just never really looked comfortable up there for some reason. It’s a spot where you can over-think. You just go about having your natural at-bats.
“You want to try to look at some pitches? That’s a prototypical leadoff guy who is just looking to find any way to get on. Cain is not a prototypical leadoff guy.
“He’s a guy who as a chance to drive the ball in the gaps. When he grabs ahold of one, he’s got a chance to put it in the seats. A guy like that shouldn’t really change his approach.
“It looks to me like (batting leadoff) affected their (Cain and Escobar) approach some. So let’s just get them back to where they’re comfortable — Escobar in the two, and Cain in the six.”
Looking for defense
Jeff Francoeur started in right field over David Lough, against Houston right-hander Jordan Lyles, because Yost wanted what he views as his best available defensive team on the field behind James Shields.
“When you’ve got two players you’re looking at,” Yost said, “there are certain days you want to go with offense and certain days you want to go with defense. Today, I wanted to go with the defense.”
Ironically, perhaps, Francoeur’s bat led to the Royals’ only run Wednesday — he had a leadoff triple in the third inning — but he lost one fly ball in the lights and saw another go over his head for an RBI double.
Lough was three for 13 in three games since his recall last Friday from Class AAA Omaha after an injured ankle forced Jarrod Dyson to the disabled list.
Francoeur was three for four Monday before striking out Tuesday in his only at-bat.
Royals Charities donated $10,000 to support local relief efforts for Moore, Okla., in the aftermath of Monday’s devastating tornado, and the club will conduct fund-raising efforts for the upcoming series against the Angels.
Fans have several in-stadium options to participate during the four-game series, which runs through Sunday.
Royals Charities is earmarking the proceeds from its 50/50 raffles to the Kansas City Chapter of the American Red Cross.
The American Red Cross will collect cash donations at the Royals Charities Headquarters, which is located on the third base side of the KIA Diamond Club on the Field/Plaza Level.
Fans can text a $10 donation to the American Red Cross by texting “REDCROSS” to 90999. Fans can also contact the agency online at www.redcross.org or by calling 1-800-733-27677 (1-800-REDCROSS).
The four-game series against the Angels is also heavy on promotions.
The first Frenchy Quarter is Thursday and will be repeated for select Thursday games. A $21 includes an Outfield Box seat in right field (close to Jeff Francoeur), a Frenchy Quarter T-shirt and blue Mardi Gras beads.
Friday’s game is a Buck Night and includes post-game fireworks. Small Pepsi products, hot dogs and bags of peanuts cost $1.
It’s Faith and Family Day on Saturday afternoon, and post-game activities are scheduled to include talks from Luke Hochevar and Angels stars Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.
The first 10,000 fans Saturday also receive a Ketchup bobblehead doll. It is the first of three bobblehead giveaways this season honoring the racing condiments.
The fifth annual Bark at the Park promotion highlights Sunday afternoon’s series finale. Fans are permitted to brings their dogs to the park if they buy tickets ahead of time in a specific section. Each ticket package includes a dog leash and a donation to Wayside Waifs.
Further information is available at www.royals.com/bark.
It was 20 years ago Thursday — May 23, 1993 — that the Royals inducted owner Ewing Kauffman into their Hall of Fame in an on-field ceremony at then-Royals Stadium.
The honor came roughly 10 weeks before Kauffman died from bone cancer at his home in Mission Hills.
Kauffman attended his induction, but his disease had progressed to the point where he was unable to attend a July 2 ceremony in which Royals Stadium was renamed Kauffman Stadium.