Royals Pitching Falls Apart, Braves Sweep KC

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The Royals looked to avoid a sweep at the hands of the first-place Braves, sending a new-look lineup against Kenshin Kawakami and giving a day off to Scott Podsednik, Jason Kendall, and Yuniesky Betancourt.

David DeJesus returned to his leadoff spot and Mike Aviles made a rightful jump to second in the order. The rest fell in line just as one would expect. So did this new lineup generate some runs? Well, yes and no…

This one wasn’t pretty from the start.  Kyle Davies struggled through a four run first inning, walking three and giving up two doubles.  Frank and Ryan on the broadcast theorized that Davies was a bit amped up facing his former team, and a lot of his fastballs sailed high and wide, so that may have been the case.

The Royals fought back and got two runs back in the top of the second, getting RBI singles from Brayan Pena and Chris Getz. Kyle Davies settled down for a while, at one point striking out four in a row while the Royals chased Kawakami from the game with three singles in the third inning. All three came around to score.

From there, the Royals offense came up empty despite opportunities. Meanwhile, the Braves tied the game with back-to-back doubles from Jason Heyward and Chipper Jones off Kyle Farnsworth. Credit to the Atlanta bullpen, who kept their team in the game and put out the fires that popped up.

For instance, in the fourth, David DeJesus led off with a double, but he was stranded after a groundout and two strikeouts. Even worse, the Royals put pressure on the Braves in the top of the eighth, as Brayan Pena walked against rookie Craig Kimbrel. Chris Getz hit a chopper that went off Kimbrel’s glove, allowing both he and Pena to reach first and second safely. When Scott Podsednik walked in place of Farnsworth, the bases were loaded for the top of the order. With the recent production from DeJesus and Billy Butler, it looked good. The Braves were on the ropes.

Then a close slider turned into called strike three against DeJesus. Kimbrel parked on the outer half of the plate and Aviles struck out as well. When Billy Butler stepped to the plate, it felt like the momentum had shifted, and rather than the rookie pitcher being on the ropes, the pressure had shifted to the Royals. Butler popped out to strand the bases loaded.

It shouldn’t be too surprising that that missed opportunity seemed to break the Royals spirit. Blake Wood came in and gave up a single, though it was erased following a double play. Then Chipper Jones walked. Then Troy Glaus walked. Eric Hinske put a ball in the gap to score both runners. Melky Cabrera drove in the third run of the inning on a single to left and the three run lead was more than enough for Billy Wagner to continue his dominance over the Royals, sandwiching an Alberto Callaspo single between two strikeouts before Brayan Pena grounded out to end the game.

The Royals left 11 on base and went 5-18 with runners in scoring position. They didn’t put the ball in play when it mattered late, however, and there wasn’t a lot of movement on the basepaths. Then again, the Royals walked 11 batters as a collective staff, so there aren’t many games that go in your favor when you do that.

Davies threw 103 pitches in 4.1 innings, but only 53 went for strikes. After his four run first inning, he escaped a couple of other jams, stranding Heyward and Jones on second and third after walking them both in the bottom of the second. Eric Hinske and Omar Infante were both left watching while Davies struck out two batters to finish the third inning. When Victor Marte relieved him in the fifth, he inherited (and stranded) Troy Glaus and Melky Cabrera who had both walked.

I did like the look of the new batting order, or at least the opportunity to see Chris Getz and Brayan Pena in the lineup. Or maybe it’s more like seeing Jason Kendall out of it.

The Royals move on to Washington to take on the surprising Nationals, including a showdown with Stephen Strasburg on Wednesday. I don’t know – I don’t feel all that optimistic about this one. The Royals are now 29-41 and have lost four of their last five.

Stars of the Game
Jose Guillen, 2-5, 2 RS, 1 RBI, extended hitting streak to 15 games
Chris Getz, 2-4, 2 RBI, double
Brayan Pena, 1-4, 1 RBI, 1 walk

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Tags: AL Central Baseball Billy Wagner Blake Wood Brayan Pena Chipper Jones Chris Getz Craig Kimbrel Eric Hinske Jose Guillen Kansas City Royals KC Kenshin Kawakami Kyle Davies Kyle Farnsworth MLB Royals

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