At some point, as the Royals know better than perhaps any professional franchise in American sports, you hit bottom and things start to get better. (Maybe not a lot better, but better.)
That bottom must be getting close after Saturday’s 7-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels at Kauffman Stadium. Must be, right? This demoralizing free-fall can’t continue, can it? Not at this pace ...
“It’s definitely frustrating,” first baseman Eric Hosmer admitted. “That’s why this game is so tough. It’s a game of failure. We’ve just got to stay focused and continue to take it day by day.
“We’ve got to play some better baseball. Offensively, we’ve got to pick up the pace. We realize that as an offense. There’s not one magical thing that can change it. We’ve got to do it as a group.”
That group, starting Sunday, will not include catcher Salvy Perez, who was placed on bereavement leave following the unexpected death of his maternal grandmother. Perez will miss at least three (and as many as seven) days.
The Royals plan to purchase the contract of catcher Adam Moore from Class AAA Omaha prior to Sunday’s series finale.
Saturday’s loss was faith-testing grim. The Angels trotted out right-hander Billy Buckner, a one-time Royals’ draftee who hasn’t pitched in the majors in nearly three years. And he worked five scoreless innings.
The LA bullpen, which entered the day with a better ERA than just two other American League units, then completed the shutout with four clean innings.
And it all looked easy.
“Offensively, we’re just not getting it done,” manager Ned Yost said. “We just need to break out of the funk were in and get some hits. It’s a combination of everything, but we’ve got to find a way to get it done.”
The Royals’ attack right now ... Tennyson once wrote about “the quiet sense of something lost.” Well, yeah. Bingo. A lot of quiet, and a lot of lost. (That’s right, we’re channeling Tennyson. Gives you an idea, doesn’t it?)
The Royals have scored three runs or fewer on six occasions while going 1-8 over the last nine days. That streak includes three one-run losses at Oakland, two losses in three games at Houston (which is tough to do).
And now three straight home losses to the Angels who, when this series opened Thursday night, had the worst record in the American League but for those aforementioned Astros.
Tennyson is perfect.
“Up until today, we’ve been right there,” second baseman Chris Getz said. “It’s been tough, but we’re grinding away, and we’ll continue to do so. We’re optimistic that the tables will turn.”
It was Getz who crystallized the mounting frustration by getting ejected in the sixth by first-base umpire Marty Foster after a close call the previous inning resulted in a rally-killing double play.
The Royals trailed just 1-0 and had runners at first and second with one out when Getz hit a grounder to second. The relay produced a bang-bang play at first. Very close. Even on replays.
Getz and the Royals were in no mood to give Foster any benefit of doubt after his missed call Friday night in calling Mike Trout safe at second base on steal with the score tied in the seventh inning.
Those replays showed Getz clearly applied and held the tag before Trout reached the base. The Angels went on to score three runs in a 5-2 victory. So Getz kept chirping at Foster after another close call.
“When he got back to the dugout (after the LA sixth),” Yost said, “he was still screaming at Marty Foster(Foster) told him to be quiet, and (Getz) said something else.”
Getz acknowledged: “Obviously, it was more than just that (play). So”
More frustration: Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie carried a no-hitter into the sixth -- and still trailed 1-0. Trout (again!) walked with one out in the fourth, stole second, went to third on a throwing error and scored on a grounder.
That first hit against Guthrie, 5-3, was a homer by Hank Conger to start the LA sixth. Josh Hamilton hit a two-out homer in the seventh -- that was the Angels’ second hit -- and it was 3-0.
A four-run eighth turned the game into a rout. All seven runs were charged to Guthrie, although Louis Coleman didn’t help by permitting three inherited runners to score.
“I don’t know how to characterize it,” Guthrie said. “As a loss?”
So the slide continues. The Royals are 4-15 since topping out at 17-10 with a comeback victory May 5 over Chicago. They need a victory Sunday to keep the Angels from completing a four-game sweep.
Then come four games against St. Louis, which has the best record in baseball, and three at Texas, which has the best record in the American League.
Maybe that bottom isn’t so close.
Buckner, 29, made his first big-league appearance in nearly three years (May 29, 2010) and 4-2 with a 4.56 ERA in eight starts at Class AAA Salt Lake prior to his May 16 recall.
“All I wanted to do,” he said, “was be aggressive in the bottom of the zone and let my defense play behind me.”
And here he was, working five innings and allowing just two hits before handing a 2-0 lead to Dane De La Rosa in the sixth. Scott Downs pitched the seventh, Robert Coello the eighth and Michael Kohn the ninth.
They all feasted on the Royals’ increasingly feeble attack.
“Billy came up and gave us five zeroes,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia marveled, “and the bullpen put up four more zeroes in a game where, a week ago, we were looking at and weren’t real sure who was going to start today.”
So what do the Royals do now? Something has to change, doesn’t it?
“I don’t answers those types of questions after a ballgame,” Yost said, “because you’re upset. Games like that are hard. Emotions are high. It’s best to sit and think things through (and not) make snap decisions.”