This season’s expanded playoff structure gave the KC Royals a shot at playing October baseball. After a bad weekend in Chicago, the club has little, if any, realistic hope of postseason play.
Whatever slim hopes the KC Royals still had of making the playoffs likely disappeared this weekend in Chicago, buried in yet another one-run loss in the kind of game a club like this simply has to win.
Having won Saturday after Friday’s walk-off loss to the White Sox, the Royals entered Sunday’s game hoping to win the three-game weekend series and move a bit closer to the second American League Wild Card prize. Instead, they followed their familiar script of weak bats ruining strong pitching and suffered their seventh loss in 10 games when Sox rookie Luis Robert, now batting .384 with three home runs and six RBIs in six games against KC, parked a Tyler Zuber pitch over the left field fence in the 10th to give his club a 5-2 win.
It was the Royals’ third walk-off loss in the last four games and dropped them to 13-21, seven games behind in the Wild Card race. With 26 games left and 11 straight starting tonight against the two clubs tied for the AL Central lead—the Sox and Cleveland—any Royal visions of playing in October have probably vanished.
Sunday’s loss came as so many have in this disappointing season. Good hitting didn’t accompany good pitching.
Rookie starter Kris Bubic had one of his best outings of the season, a 5.1 inning effort in which he struck out eight, walked just two, and gave up two runs. Greg Holland, who may inherit the closer role opened up by Saturday’s trade of Trevor Rosenthal, struck out three in his one inning of relief work; of course, his outing probably increased his value on a deal market that ends with today’s 3 p.m. (Central) trade deadline. Jake Newberry, Kyle Zimmer, and Josh Staumont held Chicago scoreless in their 2.2 collective innings.
But the three-run homer Zuber gave Robert, and the all-too-familiar lack of offense did in the KC Royals. Although credit must go to Chicago starter Dane Dunning, who held the Royals hitless and struck out seven in his five innings, and a Chicago bullpen that allowed only two runs in the final five frames, Kansas City’s overall performance at the plate wasn’t much different than it’s been against any number of other hurlers.
The Royals scored just twice and are now averaging 4.08 per game across 34 contests, a rate exceeding four only because this is a team that somehow managed to plate 45 runs in its four highest-scoring outings—without those runs, they’ve scored at a measly 3.1 clip in 30 games.
They were 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position and mustered just five hits. Two of them, including a home run, belonged to Whit Merrifield, who seems to hit even when others don’t.
Adalberto Mondesi, the most struggling Royal of all, failed to get a hit for the 16th time in 34 games, was 0-for-14 for the weekend and saw his average drop to .190. To make matters worse, the Sox caught him stealing in the 10th, which wiped out the advantage of having the speedy Mondesi as the placed runner with no one out. He’s played in every game despite his inability to hit; manager Mike Matheny might do well to give him a day off—the club’s position in the standings means it can afford to be without Mondesi’s stellar defense for a game or two.
The Royals have now lost eight of the 12 one-run games they’ve played. Playoff-bound teams typically don’t lose two-thirds of such contests. Nor can they afford to.
But this loss, the way it happened, and the spot in which it left the KC Royals, aren’t the only harbingers of playoff dreams dashed. They traded closer Rosenthal to San Diego while they were beating the Sox Saturday; as reported by mlb.com’s Royals beat writer Jeffrey Flanagan, general manager Dayton Moore’s words concerning the deal seemed to acknowledged the club’s realistic view of its postseason chances:
Had this season been a full one, “playoffs” probably wouldn’t have ever been mentioned in the same breath as “Royals.” Shortened as it is, and bestowed with extra opportunities for marginal teams to grab postseason berths, the very nature of this campaign sparked hope in many quarters that maybe, just maybe, these KC Royals could somehow squeeze their way into October.
Those hopes were nice to harbor after two straight 100-plus loss seasons. But after this weekend, they’re probably lost.
The weekend wasn’t good for the KC Royals. With their next 11 games coming against only the high-flying White Sox and Indians, what little hope the club had for a playoff spot may be irretrievably gone.