Welcome back to Kings of Kauffman’s recaps of each month of the 2021 KC Royals season. Today we remember June.
May began for the 2021 KC Royals like no May had since 2015.
The Royals were in first place in the American League Central. Not by much, mind you—their lead over Chicago was a razor-thin one game—but first is first, and it belonged to Kansas City.
Leading didn’t last, of course. The club won its first game of the month, then promptly lost 11 in a row and surrendered first place for good after the fourth defeat of the skid. The awful slide had much to do with the team’s 11-17 May record and indelibly stained the season.
But the Royals and their fans hadn’t seen anything yet.
June was worse—Kansas City went 7-20 and plummeted from third place and only six games behind Chicago when the month began to dead last and 14 behind the Sox when it ended. The club’s worst month of 2021 extinguished any hope of a turnaround season, a bitter pill for the Royals to swallow after a fast April start.
One losing streak hurt the KC Royals in May. Three destroyed their June.
May’s 11-game losing streak damaged Kansas City, but didn’t kill its postseasons hopes. In fact, the Royals won their last two games of May, then hammered Pittsburgh 10-5 June 1, and outscored Minnesota 20-10 to win their next two.
But feast turned to famine—the Twins won the next two before Kansas City started a West Coast swing by losing three in a row to the Angels, who began the series by ruining Jackson Kowar’s major league debut. They scored four runs in the first inning to knock him out before the frame ended.
The Royals limped out of Los Angeles and into Oakland for a four-game series with the A’s. Andrew Benintendi and Jorge Soler homered and Mike Minor gave up only a run and struck out eight in seven innings to give KC a win in the opener.
But the wheels came off again. Elvis Andrus walked KC off in the second game with a ninth-inning single off Scott Barlow, the A’s greeted Kowar with four runs in the first two innings and battered Wade Davis for five in the eighth to win the third contest 11-2, and Oakland took the finale 6-3.
Things didn’t improve when Kansas City returned home from Oakland. Brad Keller handed Detroit seven runs in five innings, including four in the first, and the Tigers went on to defeat the Royals 10-3 to ruin the team’s first night back at Kauffman Stadium. Detroit won the next two for a three-game sweep.
Kansas City won three of its next four, but then lost a 6-5 heartbreaker at Yankee Stadium when Greg Holland gave up a walk-off single to Luke Voit. The loss signaled the debacle to come—the Royals dropped the next, and final, seven games of the month, giving them June losing streaks of six, five, and finally eight, defeats that combined for 19 of the club’s 20 June losses.
Poor KC Royals pitching contributed heavily to their June difficulties.
The primary reason Kansas City suffered such a terrible June was pitching. The Royals allowed more June homers than any other American League club and had the worst OBA and second worst WHIP. They gave up the second most runs and earned runs, the third most hits, and tied for the second most walks.
The starting rotation wasn’t good. Keller went 1-4 with an 8.31 ERA, Minor was 2-4, 6.44, Brady Singer had a 1-2, 4.34 record, and Bubic lost two of his three starts, giving up 11 runs in 8.2 innings in the process. And Kowar didn’t fare any better than fellow rookie Daniel Lynch did in May, going 0-2, 18.00 (0-2, 24.00 as a starter), while Lynch went 0-2, 15.75 in three starts in his first major league month.
The bullpen lost twice as many games (six) as it won (three) and had a 4.80 ERA.
Those numbers left the offense with a lot of work to do. Kansas City slashed .254/.313/.408 as a team, and Whit Merrifield’s June was his best month of the season—he hit .351 with four homers and 17 RBIs. Nicky Lopez, who finished the season with a surprising .300 average, came into the month hitting just .227, but exploded with .333 and a .413 OBP. Salvador Perez cracked nine homers and hit .292.
June was the Royals’ worst month of the 2021 season and put to rest any reasonable hope of making the playoffs. Would things improve in July?