What are the Royals going to do with struggling right-hander Wade Davis, who lasted just 2 2/3 innings Monday night in a 9-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles at Kauffman Stadium?
Davis was a key component in the big offseason trade with Tampa Bay because the Royals control him, via contract options, through the 2017 season.
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But Davis sports a 5.92 ERA through 19 starts for a club clinging to the hope of climbing back into the postseason hunt. Worse, he is 4-9 after four straight losses in which he permitted 21 runs in 15 2/3 innings.
“I’m just inconsistent,” he said. “I’ve got to be better. I’ve got to get deeper into games, and I’ve got to be more aggressive in the strike zone.”
Asked before the game whether Davis was on a short leash, manager Ned Yost responded: “Not right now.”
“We don’t comment on situations like that after the game,” Yost said. “He hasn’t pitched in 11 days. So there is some rustiness there because of the All-Star break.”
The Royals do have options.
Luis Mendoza made 15 starts before losing his job in the rotation, but he allowed five runs in 3 1/3 innings after replacing Davis and saw his ERA spike to 5.21.
Another possibility is left-hander Danny Duffy, who appears increasingly sharp in the minors as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery. Duffy is scheduled to start Tuesday at Class AAA Omaha.
Or the Royals can stick a while longer with Davis, whose next scheduled turn is Saturday at Chicago. Davis said, “I don’t think about stuff like that.”
The Orioles jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first inning and knocked out Davis in a two-run third before the Royals got their first base-runner.
Veteran right-hander Scott Feldman, 2-1, yielded two runs and five hits in eight innings before Troy Patton closed out Baltimore’s fifth straight victory.
“It was nice to go eight innings,” Feldman said, “but I think the big thing was the offense came out and put nine runs on the board.”
The Royals pulled within 4-2 with single runs in the third and fourth innings before Baltimore turned the game into a rout against Mendoza with one run in the fifth and a four-run sixth.
Chris Davis had a two-run double in the sixth before J.J. Hardy hit a two-run homer. Davis and Hardy both finished with three RBIs. Hardy, Nick Markakis and Henry Urrutia each had three of the Orioles’ 18 hits.
The loss dropped the Royals to 45-51 and back to eight games behind first-place Detroit in the American League Central Division.
“Anything we could screw up,” Yost said, “we screwed up tonight. Let’s get it out of our system and go get them them tomorrow.”
This one got away in a hurry.
Wade Davis opened the game by walking Nate McLouth before Manny Machado hit a potential double-play grounder to third — and Mike Moustakas simply whiffed on it.
The result was a two-base error that scored McLouth.
“Just missed it,” Moustakas said. “There’s no excuses for it. It’s something that just can’t happen. Wade makes his pitch. He gets Manny to ground it to me, and that’s a 5-4-3 double play any day of the week.
“I just didn’t catch it. I was routine as it gets. I just didn’t make the play.”
The misplay ended the Royals’ errorless streaks at 11 games and 105 innings. The 11 games matched a franchise record; the 101 innings fell five shy of the franchise record achieved on two previous occasions.
Markakis’ single moved Machado to third before Davis struck out Adam Jones. A sacrifice fly by Chris Davis to deep left extended the Orioles’ lead to 2-0.
Wade Davis found more trouble in the second after Urrutia led off with a single. Brian Roberts walked, and McLouth loaded the bases on a single through the right side.
And then Davis pitched out of it by striking out Machado and Markakis before Lorenzo Cain saved three runs with a a diving catch in deep center.
It was merely a temporary reprieve.
Chris Davis led off the third with a soft single to left, and Matt Wieters followed with a double that sailed over the head of left fielder Alex Gordon. Davis stopped at third.
Hardy’s grounder to second scored Davis for a 3-0 lead. Urrutia’s flared a single to left that added another run. Davis retired Roberts on a grounder to first but walked McLouth.
And that was enough.
In came Mendoza, who ended the inning on one pitch when Machado grounded to third.
As if he felt rusty, Davis said: “Who knows? I was missing a little bit off the plate when I needed to throw a strike. That led to a couple of walks. I’d get a couple of hits in-between that.
“I threw a ton of pitches in the first two innings. It was just too much.”
In contrast, Feldman retired the first six Royals before David Lough opened the third with a bunt single. Lough went to third on Miguel Tejada’s single through the right side.
Alcides Escobar’s fly to center was deep enough to score Lough. Feldman then hit Gordon with a pitch, but the Royals settled for just one run when Eric Hosmer grounded into a double play.
The Royals clawed closer in the fourth. Singles by Salvy Perez, Moustakas and Lough made it 4-2 before Feldman stranded runners at first and third by retiring Tejada on a grounder to short.
The Orioles opened the fifth with singles by Hardy and Urrutia. Both tried to advance when a Mendoza pitch bounced away from from Perez, but Perez threw out Urrutia at second.
But Hardy reached third and scored on Roberts’ sacrifice fly deep into the left-center gap that extended the lead to 5-2. Four runs in the sixth made it 9-2.
“It was clunker, man,” Yost said. “We didn’t do anything well except play center field.”