The Los Angeles Angels swept the KC Royals out of Southern California Wednesday night, delivering slumping Kansas City its third embarrassing defeat in as many nights and leaving the Royals winless in the only series they play at Angel Stadium this season.
The only thing even arguably good about the night is that the White Sox also lost, so the Royals gave no ground to the American League Central leaders. But they still trail Chicago by 7.5 games.
And things could easily get worse before they get better. Kansas City left Southern California for The Bay Area, where tonight they open a four-game series with the AL West-leading Oakland A’s.
It’s not the best of times to face the Athletics, who’ve won six of their last seven games and nine of their last 13, and lead the tough Houston Astros by a game in the West. The Royals, meanwhile, are losers of five straight and scorers of only six runs in their last four contests. A bad series in Oakland could, coupled with those five consecutive defeats, could set an unfortunate tone for Kansas City heading into its six-game homestand with division rival Detroit and the incredibly improved Red Sox next week.
Candidly, KC looks overmatched against the A’s. The Royals are two games under .500 at 29-31; Oakland is 37-26. Kansas City’s run differential is -20; Oakland’s is +13. Oakland’s OPS ranks seventh in the American League, Kansas City’s is 11th. The A’s 77 homers are the league’s fourth best, while Kansas City’s 57 rank dead last.
And the KC Royals come to Oakland with quiet bats. Other than Andrew Benintendi, who bounced back from a poor April with a .344/.377/.443 April and is hitting .284 overall, Whit Merrifield, who’s raised his average to .268 by hitting .387 this month, and the steady Salvador Perez, Kansas City’s bats have been remarkably quiet lately.
What about pitching? Only the bullpen has been particularly effective for Kansas City—the rotation is fraught with inconsistency and desperately misses Danny Duffy, at 4-3 with a 1.94 ERA its best member until a left forearm flexor strain sidelined him in mid-May.
The A’s fare a bit better than KC on the mound. As a staff, they have the fifth best ERA (3.87) in the AL, five spots better than Kansas City’s 4.52. Oakland’s fifth-ranked 1.26 WHIP is far better than the KC Royals’ last place 1.40.
Fortunately, it looks like Kansas City won’t have to contend with starter Sean Manaea (5-2, 3.09,) but won’t avoid Chris Bassitt (6-2, 3.44) or Frankie Montas (6-5, 4.52).
The KC Royals need to avoid an embarrassing performance against Oakland.
So it is that the Royals have their work cut out for them in Oakland. The difficulty of beating the A’s aside, this June series is more critical than it should be, and that 7.5 game gap separating Kansas City from Chicago is why. The Royals simply can’t afford another sweep, and anything worse than a series split could seriously damage the club considering what awaits it at home next week.
Detroit comes in for three games starting Monday and the Tigers, despite trailing Kansas City by 4.5 games through Wednesday and losing four of six games to the Royals so far this season, always seem to give KC fits. And with the Tigers comes Miguel Cabrera, who tends to feast on the Royals.
Boston follows Detroit into Kauffman Stadium Friday. The Red Sox, 37-25 through Wednesday, are in second place in the AL East after spending much of the season in first and finishing last in 2020.
The bottom line is this: the KC Royals need to get better in Oakland, or their next 10 games, including the four against the A’s, could put them in a hole too deep to get out of.
The Royals open a difficult 10-game stretch tonight at 8:40 p.m. CT in Oakland. How they play against the A’s will be critical.