Did you hear it? Wednesday night there was a collective groan throughout the Midwest as Royals Manager Ned Yost once again reached into his bullpen for Joakim Soria.
Kansas City fans held their breath waiting to see if Soria could escape trouble as he did in Tuesday’s game. No, no he could not. The lowly Twins scored two runs off Soria, then added another against Kelvin Herrera to steal a 6-5 win.
At a glance, Soria has not been so bad. His 3.21 ERA over his last 15 appearance is respectable. In reality, the once great closer, owner of one of the all-time great nicknames during his previous stint in Kansas, has been bad news for the Royals. Over those same 15 appearances, Soria has an 0-3 record. Eleven times this year, Soria has entered the game with the score tied or Kansas City in the lead, and he has left with the Royals trailing.
Several of those instances have come in the past two weeks. After giving up three earned runs on Aug. 4, Soria had a nice run of 10.1 scoreless inning over 11 appearances. In four of those 11 appearances, however, he did allow a hit, and in four of those appearances, he did allow two base runners before escaping the jam. That streak ended with an extra-inning loss to New York on Aug. 30 in which Soria allowed three hits and walked one to pick up the loss.
Since then, things have been dismal for the 32-year-old righty. In his last three appearances, Soria has allowed six hits, a walk, and four earned runs. He’s lost two of those three games for a Kansas City team needing every win it can get in this final month of the regular season.
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But Soria does not have the power to put himself in a game. That responsibility rests solely on the shoulders of Yost. He once again is proving he cannot manage close ball games and always waits a batter or two too long before bringing in a different arm. Going all the way back to Aug. 24, Yost let Dillon Gee load the bases in the sixth inning in Miami before making a move. Even Marlin’s pitcher Jose Fernandez reached and scored in that 3-run inning that was the difference in a 3-0 win for Miami.
Kansas City had been the hottest team in baseball before returning home on Aug. 29. The Royals went 1-2 against the Yankees and 1-2 against the Tigers in a disappointing home stand. All four of those losses came in winnable games. And, all four of those losses were extra painful as both Detroit and New York remain ahead of Kansas City in the playoff hunt.
KC’s Sept. 2 loss to Detroit wasn’t Yost’s fault. The Royals trailed most of the night before scoring two in the eighth to take a 6-5 lead. Wade Davis was a natural choice after his return from an injury, but the two runs he allowed in the ninth proved to be the difference. Yost went with Soria in Sunday’s loss to Detroit, and he again went with Soria in Wednesday’s loss in Minnesota. Both appearances were disastrous.
Somehow, Kansas City has managed to stay in the Wild Card chase despite the latest run of bad decision making by Yost. Fortunately, KC lost little ground Wednesday as Baltimore, Houston, and Detroit each lost. The bad news is the Royals failed to pick up important ground when a win was in hand.
Four games from a Wild Card spot heading into Thursday’s night off, the Royals are still well within reach of a playoff spot. Imagine the position they’d be in if Yost preferred a guy like Matt Strahm over the unreliable Soria.