Expanded replays, anyone?
It wasn’t just a missed call Friday night that continued the Royals’ deepening May slide, but it sure didn’t help in a 5-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels in front of a near-sellout crowd at Kauffman Stadium.
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The Angels broke open a tie game by scoring three runs in the seventh inning after umpire Marty Foster ... well, replays were pretty definitive in showing he blew a call in ruling Mike Trout safe on a steal of second base.
“I caught the ball,” second baseman Chris Getz said, “and I felt I got a lot of his body. I felt I was on him pretty much the whole time he was sliding in. Marty felt otherwise.”
There was a lot more, certainly. For one thing, Trout reached base on a leadoff walk by Luke Hochevar. Then came the steal when Aaron Crow, who replaced Hochevar, delivered his first pitch to Albert Pujols.
“I did not get a good jump,” Trout admitted. “I didn’t look at the replay. The throw definitely beat me. I kind of pulled my hand out and touched the back of the bag, but I didn’t get a chance to look at the replay.”
The replay showed Getz tagged Trout on the arm before he reached the base, but Foster saw it differently. Getz and manager Ned Yost argued, which changed nothing.
And that changed everything.
“(Foster) said he saw Getzie tag the ground and then tag Trout after his hand was on the bag,” Yost said. “I mean, as far away as I was in the dugout, I could obviously see Getz make the tag in front of the bag.”
Pujols then drew a walk, which put runners at first and second with no outs, and Mark Trumbo followed by flicking a single into left field that scored Trout for a 3-2 lead.
“The pitch was up,” Crow said. “If it had been a better pitch, he might have hit it right at Esky (shortstop Alcides Escobar) for a double play. You’ve got to get the ball down, especially to guys who are strong.”
Pujols and Trumbo moved up one base on Josh Hamilton’s fly to deep center. Pujols scored on Howie Kendrick’s sacrifice fly to center before Alberto Callaspo squirted an RBI double past third for a 5-2 lead.
There you have it: The Royals’ seventh loss in eight games; their 14th loss in 18 games; and a loss that pushed them to three games under .500, at 21-24, for the first time all season.
The biggest problem remains an offense that remains quieter than a night on a deserted lake. The Royals managed just five hits in 71/3 innings against lefty Jason Vargas, who is establishing himself as a true nemesis.
“I don’t feel like we’re pressing,” designated hitter Billy Butler said. “I just feel like we’re not catching some breaks here or there. It is what it is. We’re just falling on the wrong side of things right now.
“We’ve been in a lot of close games lately. It seems like we’re one hit away or one pitch away every game.”
Vargas improved to 4-3 overall by stifling the Royals for the second time in 11 days. He is now 6-1 in seven career starts against the Royals; the first five of which came while he pitched for Seattle.
“I tried to get ahead early and use that to my advantage,” he said. “We made some good plays out there and were able to keep them from putting a big inning together.”
It should be noted that Vargas has been pretty good against everyone in his last seventh starts: 4-1 with a 2.47 ERA. That stretch includes limiting the Royals to four runs in 141/3 innings.
“He was good,” Yost said. “The strike zone was awful big, and he commands the baseball very well.”
Garrett Richards replaced Vargas after Alex Gordon’s one-out single in the eighth and closed the inning with two strikeouts. Richards also pitched the ninth for his first save. The Angels have won six in a row.
Royals starter Luis Mendoza allowed seven hits and four walks in five innings but limited the damage to one run. Hochevar, 3-1, inherited a 2-1 lead to start the sixth.
The only run against Mendoza scored on a wild pitch in the third inning. The Royals answered with a homer in their third by Miguel Tejada before taking the lead on Getz’s two-out RBI single in the fifth.
Hochevar couldn’t hold the lead. The Angels pulled even on Chris Iannetta’s one-out homer, and J.B. Shuck followed with a triple into the right-center gap.
The Royals shortened their infield — and caught a break when Erick Aybar bunted through a suicide squeeze. Shuck was dead meat; catcher Salvy Perez applied the tag for the out.
It was all prologue to the seventh. Hochevar walked Trout ... and we’ve been through that.
“It’s not like we’re getting blown out,” Crow said. “A hit here or there, or if I make a couple of better pitches tonight to Trumbo and Callaspo, and keep the game closer, who knows what happens?”