Instead of getting a carry-over boost from their all-nighter in St. Louis, the Royals opened a three-game weekend series Friday at Texas by encapsulating their season in one telling and decisive inning.
The result was a sluggish 7-2 loss at the Ballpark in Arlington, which makes nine losses for the Royals in 10 games; and 20 losses in their last 25.
It also closed out a demoralizing 8-20 month that saw them fall from first to last in the American League Central Division.
All you need to know is the third inning. See if this sounds familiar:
The Royals, with the score 0-0, got a leadoff double from Adam Moore on a drive that sailed over the head of right fielder Nelson Cruz.
Chris Getz followed with an infield single by beating the throw from shortstop Elvis Andrus while Moore held second.
Texas lefty Derek Holland struck out Alex Gordon, but Alcides Escobar drove an RBI single up the middle that also moved Getz to third — and Escobar took second when Leonys Martin threw to third.
So .. .one run in, runners on second and third with just one out and the middle of the order coming up.
One run was all the Royals got.
The runners held on Lorenzo Cain’s hopper back to the mound, and Billy Butler ended the inning by grounding out — technically, the out was runner’s interference when Escobar ran into third baseman Adrian Beltre.
“You get second and third with one out after we take the lead,” manager Ned Yost said. “We have the opportunity to tack some more on. They were giving us a run. They’re playing the infield back.
“We couldn’t take advantage of it. We hit the ball to the pitcher, and then we can’t get a big two-out hit. Tacking on two more runs would have been big.”
Shift to the bottom of the inning.
Royals starter Wade Davis retired the first two hitters, which put him in reach of the shutdown inning all clubs crave after scoring themselves.
Instead, it all fell apart.
David Murphy legged out a soft grounder up the middle for a single when Escobar couldn’t make a barehanded pick-up on a ball that kicked off Davis’ foot.
“If I can grab that ball,” Escobar said, “it’s an easy out.”
Lance Berkman followed with a sharp grounder to the right side. Second baseman Chris Getz, playing in short right field, bobbled the ball for just an instant, but it was enough for Berkman to turn it into another single.
Runners at first and second.
“Getzie, that was a tough play in the hole,” Yost said. “But it’s still a play that’s got to be made. That gets us out of the inning That’s the way things have been going.”
They were about to go a lot worse.
Beltre rammed a grounder up the middle for a game-tying single.
Davis then fell behind 3-1 on Nelson Cruz and offered up a fastball, which Cruz simply crushed — a 419-foot drive to left for a three-run homer and a 4-1 lead.
“That’s frustrating,” Davis said. “I had a lot of hits get through today on some weak contact. That put me in a bad spot, and I made a mistake to Cruz right there.
“It’s unfortunate, especially with the way we’re playing right now. It sucks to put the team in a hole like that.”
OK, were the Royals were still recovering from the rain-delayed victory over the Cardinals? Sure, they they didn’t get get to their hotel until 7 a.m.
“No excuses,” Cain said, “but, at the same time, everybody knows what happened last night. We didn’t get in until seven this morning. But at the same time, that’s what we do. You have to go out there and perform.”
Shrugging this off as simple fatigue might seem more plausible had the Royals not had so many similar stumbles in recent weeks.
The third inning was a greatest mis-hits album. An offensive opportunity not quite maximized. A defensive play not quite made. A jam not quite escaped. And a killer homer. A lot of not-quites and a knockout punch.
“There was the ground ball that came off my foot,” Davis said. “That’s another weak hit. The ball that Berkman hit to the shift. Another inch to the left or right, and that play gets made. It’s just one of those things right now.”
There was more, of course, but it was more of the same. White noise.
Holland, 5-2, lowered his ERA to 2.81 after giving up two runs and eight hits in seven innings. He struck out eight and walked one.
“There’s a reason they signed him for what they gave him ($28.5 million over five years),” said right fielder Jeff Francoeur a former teammate. “I watched him in the World Series when he threw nine balls in a row.
“But I always said if he could ever throw strikes, just be around the plate, he was going to be a heck of a pitcher. Sure enough, he’s turned into one.”
Tanner Scheppers pitched the eighth before Joe Nathan, who has more saves against the Royals than any opponent in history, closed it out in a non-save situation.
The Rangers, who finished with 14 hits, put the game away with a two-run sixth — just after the Royals had closed to within 4-2 on Eric Hosmer’s two-out RBI single in the top of the inning.
Davis was still in at that point, and he began the inning by yielding a single to Mitch Moreland before A.J. Pierzynski sent a ball sufficiently deep to center that it required a review to determine it didn’t leave the yard.
It was a double, and it finished Davis.
In came Bruce Chen, who walked Jurickson Profar, which loaded the bases. Martin followed with a drive to deep center just beyond Cain’s reach. (Yep, another not-quite.)
The runners had to hold to ensure it wasn’t caught, but two scored and Martin pulled into second with a double. That made it 6-2; Chen did some nifty work in keeping it from getting worse.
All six runs went to Davis, whose ERA spiked to 6.16 as he fell to 3-5 while allowing 10 hits in five-plus innings.
Texas got its final run when Luke Hochevar surrendered a leadoff homer in the seventh to Beltre, who turned around a 1-2 breaking ball. It was Beltre’s fourth hit of the game.