Disastrous May ruins promising start for KC Royals

(Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports) /
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KC Royals, Brad Keller
(Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports) /

Losing was about the only thing the KC Royals did in the first half of May.

Kansas City’s lopsided eight-run victory over Minnesota May 1 represented almost all the team good the Royals enjoyed in the first two weeks of the season’s second month. When the third inning of the next day’s game ended, an unfortunate tone was set.

Brad Keller, the club’s 2020 Pitcher of the Year, was 2-2 but struggling when he took the mound that day—Texas hammered him for six runs in 1.1 innings Opening Day, the White scored four against him in 3.1 innings a week later, and the Rays hit him for five in 1.2 innings six days before he faced Minnesota May 2.

Keller retired the first seven Twins he faced before imploding in the third. He gave up two home runs, hit a batter, threw a wild pitch, and surrendered seven runs before the inning ended. That four of those runs were unearned meant little: runs are runs, and Keller surrendered them all.

The game was over at that point, the Twins’ final six runs of their 13-4 win just salt rubbed in the first of 11 wounds Kansas City suffered before winning again. (Two of the Royals’ other nine losses were also blowouts—the White Sox beat them 9-1 May 8 and 9-3 the next afternoon).

Keller lost once more during the 11-game losing streak—he pitched fairly well May 7, striking out six and walking only one in six innings (he held the White Sox scoreless for the first four), but Chicago shut out Kansas City 3-0. It was the second straight whitewash for the Royals, who lost to Cleveland 4-0 the day before.

The KC Royals’ inability to hold leads hurt them during May’s losing streak.

More painful than those shutouts, however, were the four times Kansas City blew leads and lost during the streak. The first came May 3 and ruined Daniel Lynch’s much-anticipated major league debut. Lynch wasn’t perfect, but managed to hold Cleveland scoreless through three innings and left leading 3-1 with two out and two on the fifth. But in a failure rare for him in 2021, Scott Barlow gave up a two-run single and the game was tied.

The deadlock remained until the seventh when Jakob Junis gave up five runs, enough for an eventual 8-6 Cleveland victory. Kansas City squandered another 3-0 lead the next night when starter Mike Minor surrendered three runs and the bullpen four over the final four innings; Kansas City lost 7-3. The Indians did it to KC again the following night when they overcame a 4-0 deficit to win 5-4.

The last blown lead of the month came two days before the losing streak ended. The Royals lost the 2-0 lead they took in the first and lost 4-2 to Detroit May 12.

In the end, though, precisely how the Royals lost each game didn’t matter. That they lost 11 in a row did.