The KC Royals will begin a baseball winter packed with uncertainty when their season ends sometime late Sunday afternoon. Who will be back, and who won't, when the club opens the 2024 regular season in six months? Can general manager J.J. Picollo and principal owner John Sherman sign Bobby Witt Jr. to a long-term deal? Will Zack Greinke retire, and if he doesn't, will he remain a Royal? Will the club do the unthinkable and trade Salvador Perez?
Those are but a few of the pieces to Kansas City's offseason puzzle, one Picollo and his staff will pore over and try to solve while they, the players, and fans await spring training.
One thing, however, will be absolutely certain at the very moment the Royals or the Yankees, their Sunday season finale opponent, make the campaign's final out — these 2023 Royals will either own or share the title of worst team in franchise history.
That much they established by losing Saturday night's game at Kauffman Stadium to the Yankees. Ahead 2-0 until New York tied the contest in the fourth, the Royals saw this game get away in the sixth when the bullpen let them down. They ultimately lost 5-2.
Defeat No. 106 ties the Royals with the 2005 team for most losses in a single season. They'll break that record if the Yanks beat them Sunday. Neither status is what these Royals want.
The KC Royals couldn't come through in the clutch Saturday night
Failures in two key situations contributed heavily to this latest KC loss.
The first belongs to the bullpen. Alec Marsh, who took over from opener Steven Cruz in the second and cruised through a pair of trouble-free frames, yielded back-to-back run-scoring singles to Oswaldo Cabrera and Everson Pereira that tied things up in the fourth. Collin Snider relieved Marsh with one on and one out in the sixth and surrendered a one-run single to Estevan Florial and a two-run single to Gleyber Torres. That put the Yankees up by three, and that's where they stayed.
Their bats let the Royals down and in the bottom half of the inning. The club had a legitimate shot at coming back after Michael Massey, who seems to be solidifying his hold on second base for next season, rapped a leadoff single and Dairon Blanco followed with a double, with Massey holding at third. But Frankie Montas extinguished the KC threat by striking out Logan Porter, Nick Pratto, and Maikel Garcia in succession.
And if that wasn't bad enough, the Royals went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
KC Royals star Bobby Witt Jr. failed in his bid for a big major league first
Losing wasn't the only disappointment the Royals gave their fans Saturday night. After becoming the club's first-ever 30-30 man with a Friday home run, Witt missed becoming the first player in major league history to hit 10 triples, slug 30 homers, and steal 50 bases in a season — attempting his 50th steal in the third, Witt found himself tagged short of second base. It was his only try for 50 of the night.
Sunday's season-ending contest begins at 2:10 p.m. CDT. Scheduled to start on the mound are Zack Greinke for the Royals and Michael King for New York.