The KC Royals began a weekend series with the Rangers in Texas Friday night desperately seeking two things. Losers of 14 of their last 18 games and playing their fourth of 20 contests in 20 days, the Royals needed a win and some rest for a taxed bullpen averaging over four pitchers and five innings pitched in Kansas City’s last three games.
Mike Minor, at 6-4 the club’s best starter this season, seemed the ideal pitcher to fulfill those needs. And for a most promising time, it looked like he’d get the job done.
He retired the Rangers in order in the first, worked out of a two-out, two-on jam in the second, and then put Texas down in order in the third. By that point, Kansas City had presented him with an early 1-0 lead.
But the game unraveled for Minor and the Royals in the fourth. And it wasn’t all Minor’s doing.
Leadoff hitter Adolis Garcia walked. Joey Gallo singled. Andy Ibanez rapped a grounder to second baseman Whit Merrifield, but Merrifield threw wide of first base, allowing Garcia to score, Gallo to take third, and Ibanez to get to second.
Nate Lowe cleared the bases with a triple to left and Texas led 3-1. But it wasn’t a clean three-bagger; instead, Hunter Dozier, playing left for only the eighth time in his career, seemed confused or fooled by Lowe’s liner, and the ball got past him.
An out later, Jonah Heim singled home Lowe to give the Rangers a three-run lead.
After a scoreless fifth, Minor’s night came to an abrupt, ugly end in the sixth. The Rangers opened with three straight singles, one each by Ibanez and Lowe, and another by Solak that scored Ibanez to make it 5-2 (KC’s Carlos Santana doubled in a run in the fifth).
Heim then doubled to score Lowe, and Culberson drove in Solak and Heim with his own double.
Carlos Hernandez replaced Minor and allowed another run to score. That made the game 8-2 and put it out of the KC Royals’ reach. Kansas City used two more relievers—Danny Duffy and Anthony Swarzak pitched an inning apiece, Duffy only two days after throwing two innings against New York in his return from the IL, and Swarzak a day after pitching one frame against the Yankees.
The Rangers won 9-4. Kansas City’s 15th loss in 19 games put them eight games below .500, their lowest point of the season, and 10.5 games behind American League Central frontrunner Chicago.
Friday’s loss was characteristic of the way the KC Royals frequently play.
The night was tainted by flaws all too common to these Royals—early troubles for a starter, Merrifield’s occasional unsteadiness at second, and the uncertainty prevailing in left since Andrew Benintendi went on the Injured List. Minor’s performance speaks for itself, Merrifield now has six errors in 66 games at second and doesn’t look as comfortable there as he has in the past, and the way Dozier handled Lowe’s liner will fuel the fire for Edward Olivares, a capable outfielder who the Royals inexplicably keep returning to Omaha.
The Rangers won 9-4 to hand Kansas City its 15th loss in 19 games. The Royals are now eight games below .500—their worst point of the season—and, at 33-41, they’re 10.5 games behind American League Central frontrunner Chicago.
The KC Royals’ bullpen now faces a long Saturday afternoon in Texas.
The impact of Minor’s failure to survive the sixth was compounded after the game, when Manager Mike Matheny announced during his postgame press opportunity that Kyle Zimmer will open for the Royals today. That means early, and longer, work for the bullpen.
It’s a pen in need of a break. Now, it won’t get one until at least Sunday unless someone manages an extended outing Saturday.
The KC Royals and Texas play the second of their three-game series this afternoon. First pitch is set for 3:05 p.m. CT, with Zimmer facing Ranger standout Kyle Gibson at Globe Life Field.