The KC Royals began Friday night's game with Cleveland teetering dangerously on the edge of being not just one of baseball's bad teams, but instead its worst.
Fortunately for Kansas City, Oakland's 7-3 loss to Boston spared the Royals that embarrassment—an Athletics' win would have given the Royals the worst record in the majors after Cleveland shut them out 3-0 at Progressive Field.
But escaping the major league basement, at least for now, isn't much consolation. A loss is still a loss, and this one was Kansas City's 64th. With the All-Star Break, the game's traditional but mathematically imprecise, season midpoint still two games away, what so far ranks as one of the franchise's worst teams ever is on pace to lose at least 116 games. Sadly, that would establish the 2023 Royals as the sorriest club to call Kansas City home since Charlie Finley took his A's to Oakland.
Blame a familiar source for the latest defeat.
Why did the last-place KC Royals lose to Cleveland Friday night?
Some will chalk up Friday night's loss to Kansas City starter Daniel Lynch, who allowed the Guardians a run in the first inning and two more in the fourth; that was, of course, all Cleveland needed and then some.
But blaming Lynch misses the mark. The Royals lost because they can't, and didn't, hit and score. No team wins when it does neither, and this run-starved team boasts just eight scores through the first five games of their current seven-contest road trip. Friday's was the second shutout of the trip and the club has pushed across a run only once in the last 27 innings.
And the bats were especially inept against Cleveland pitcher Aaron Civale, who went seven innings, struck out nine, and allowed KC only two hits in earning his third win of the year. Trevor Stephan and Emmanuel Clase finished the shutout with a hitless inning apiece, with Clase picking up his 25th save.
Only Bobby Witt Jr., MJ Melendez, and Maikel Garcia reached base for Kansas City, Witt with a fourth-inning double, Melendez with a two-bagger of his own in the fifth, and Garcia with a walk in the ninth. Salvador Perez, who'll head to Seattle for his eighth All-Star Game after Sunday's series finale, and Nick Pratto both struck out three times. Drew Waters fanned twice.
The quiet Royals went 2-for-28 and were retired in order six times.
The club's inability to score isn't anything new—only Oakland has fewer runs this season and Kansas City averages 3.6 per game—but it spoiled the ever-improving Lynch's fourth quality start since he came off the Injured List May 28. Throwing only 73 pitches in six innings, he struck out three and walked just one. Only Josh Naylor's first-inning RBI single and Josh Bell's two-run homer in the fourth seriously blemished his night. He's now 2-4 with a 4.18 ERA.
What's next as Kansas City tries to avoid another series loss after losing the first two games of their scheduled four against the Guardians? Brady Singer faces Gavin Williams when the clubs meet at 3:10 p.m. CDT Saturday.
Hopefully, the Royals bring their bats.