It wasn’t meant to be.
Lerew wasn’t bad on Tuesday, but he gave up ten hits in 5.1 innings, dancing in and out of trouble but only surrendering four runs. Two of those came on solo homeruns by Josh Willingham and Adam Dunn.
The Royals bats were full of sound and fury, but ultimately signified nothing, scattering 11 hits, but only going 2-10 with runners in scoring position. Jason Kendall was a maddening 0-3 in those situations. The lineup continues to squander opportunities, especially late in games.
Part of that can be attributed to bad luck. In the eighth inning last night, Billy Butler, representing the tying run, hit a drive about 400 feet to center, but Nyjer Morgan settled under it just in front of the 402 foot sign. The Royals threatened again in the ninth against Nationals closer Matt Capps, putting together back to back singles by Alberto Callaspo and Wilson Betemit. When Yuniesky Betancourt hit a dribbler down the line that could have went foul, it looked like the Royals might be turning things around, and a Scott Podsednik single scored two, putting the tying run on second. With two outs, Jason Kendall came to the plate, and while I spoiled it above, he of course ended the game with a foul out.
Podsednik drove in all three runs, which is unexpected, but that was all the offense the Royals could muster.
Lately, when the bottom of the order comes through and gets on base, it’s wasted. Podsednik has had a few hot streaks and for a slap-hitting leadoff hitter, he’s driven in a fair amount of runs, but Jason Kendall batting second is a rally killer. Joe Posnanski pointed out that since Kendall moved up to #2 in the order June 8th, he’s hit .096 and slugged .096.
That’s unspeakably bad. Kendall turns 36 this weekend and as we learn on every Royals broadcast, he’s caught the fifth most games in major league history. That amount of wear is affecting his offensive production, and it’s detrimental to the rest of the lineup. Further, in an important situation last night, Kendall stayed at the plate while Mitch Maier, Brayan Pena, and even Willie Bloomquist rotted on the bench.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result. Batting Jason Kendall second is insanity. He has a role on the team and in the lineup, as Brayan Pena catching more than half the games would damage the defense (Kendall’s not an elite defensive catcher, but anyone has to concede that he’s way ahead of Pena), but a 60/40 split or even 70/30 would seem acceptable to keep Kendall fresh as well as inject a stronger hitter into the lineup more often.
But even if a shift in playing time doesn’t happen, why keep Kendall so high in the order? Lineups are constructed, ideally, so that over time your better hitters come up more often. I wouldn’t classify an aging, worn catcher with no power as one of your better hitters. The Royals have had some suspect hitting talent in the last five or six years, but this current squad at least has players that put the ball in play and show occasional extra base abilities.
This afternoon, the Royals face phenom Stephen Strasburg. Luckily he’s on a pitch count. Unfortunately, it’s entirely possible he may not need more than 100 pitches to dispatch the Royals right now. This team looks lost and with an upcoming series with St. Louis, they may surpass the seven game losing streak that sealed Trey Hillman’s fate.
The Royals have lost five in a row and are currently clinging to fourth place with a 29-43 record.