Right now, it seems the Royals might never win again. OK, for a while now, but particularly after Wednesday’s numbing 5-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
Daniel Descalso’s two-run pinch single with two outs in the eighth inning capped a four-run hammer blow against Aaron Crow that sent the Royals to their eighth straight loss overall and their 19th in 23 games.
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“I think that was, by far, the worst I’ve pitched in my entire career,” Crow said. “I was leaving the ball up and giving them good pitches to hit. In that situation, it’s not going to get the job done. I can’t let it happen again.”
Once was bad enough.
“It’s hard, man,” shortstop Alcides Escobar admitted. “That was a bad moment at the end. We played a great game, great defense and everything...and the last inning was a really bad inning.”
The loss dropped the Royals into undisputed possession of last place in the American League Central Division. And of all the losses over this wretched streak, none might be harder to swallow than this one.
The Royals built a 2-0 lead for Luis Mendoza, who contributed a two-out RBI single to the cause. J.C. Gutierrez protected a 2-1 lead in the seventh, and Crow inherited a 3-1 lead to start the eighth.
“That was the way I wanted it,” manager Ned Yost said. “That was the plan. To get Mendy through six, and then we were were going to go Gutie in the seventh, Crow in the eighth and Holly (Greg Holland) in the ninth.”
The Royals never got to Holland.
“Aaron just didn’t have it tonight,” Yost said. “It was one of those nights where there wasn’t much quality in terms of the pitch location. Too many hittable pitches. Behind in the count. Paid the price.”
And, boy, did things go wrong in a hurry.
Crow, 0-1, started by serving up a leadoff homer to Carlos Beltran.
“That was just a real bad pitch,” Crow said. “He’s a great hitter, but there are a lot of guys who would hit that pitch. You can’t make that mistake to a hitter as good as he is. He just hammered it.”
Crow struck out Matt Holliday, but when Allen Craig pulled a single through the left side, it almost seemed possible to see it slipping away at that point.
Yadier Molina lined a single to left that moved Craig to second before David Freese lined a game-tying RBI single to left. Craig beat the throw home from Alex Gordon, while the runners moved to second and third.
An intentional walk to John Jay loaded the bases for Pete Kozma, who took a third strike.
Descalso batted for reliever Randy Choate, 1-0, and punched a two-run single into center...and that was that. Or it was when Edward Mujica closed out the ninth for his third save in three days against the Royals.
“He just hit it up the middle,” Crow said. “He didn’t hit it as hard as some of the other balls but, still, that situation -- with the bases loaded -- it’s still tied. I’ve got to keep them from scoring any more runs.
“I’ve got to give our offense a chance in the ninth to scratch out one run and get the ball to Greg.”
Mendoza settled for a no-decision after holding the Cardinals to one run -- a Holliday homer -- and six hits in 5 ⅔ innings. Tim Collins got the final out in the sixth before Gutierrez pitched a scoreless seventh.
The Royals pushed their lead to 3-1 in the eighth against Seth Maness when Mike Moustakas and David Lough reached with one out on seeing-eye singles, which put runners at first and third.
George Kottaras’ slow grounder to third produced the run. A big run, it seemed at the time.
“It was one of those games when you thought, `OK, we’re going to break through right here,’” Yost said. “Good things are happening. Moose had two hits. David Lough had two hits. Alex had three hits.
“You think, `OK, we’re headed back in a good spot.’ We couldn’t hold it in the eighth.”
St. Louis starter Lance Lynn held the Royals to two runs and eight hits in seven innings. The I-70 Series concludes Thursday night here at Busch before the Royals head to Texas for a three-game weekend series.
Mendoza retired the Cardinals in order in the first — a notable improvement since James Shields and Ervin Santana each served up two-run homers in the first inning of the two previous games.
Lynn rolled through the first three innings in order while permitting just one ball to leave the infield. Gordon broke the string with a leadoff single in the fourth through the right side.
The Royals then caught a break when Escobar’s end-of-the-bat grounder squirted through Craig at first for a double. Lorenzo Cain’s fly to right was just deep enough to score Gordon for a 1-0 lead.
Craig yanked a one-out double to left later in the inning and tried to score on Molina’s single to right, but Lough made a strong throw to the plate to preserve the lead.
Lough followed up his throw by starting the fifth with a triple to right, but Kottaras fouled out to third, and Chris Getz popped to short.
That left it up to Mendoza, who promptly lined a first-pitch fastball over Carpenter’s head at second for an RBI single and a 2-0 lead.
It was Mendoza’s first career hit, in six at-bats, and the first RBI by a Royals pitcher since Vin Mazzaro on June 9, 2012, in a 5-3 loss at Pittsburgh.
Mendoza said it might have been his first hit since he “was 10 years old. Maybe 12.” The two-run lead also matched the Royals’ biggest margin over their eight-game skid.