Flanny's Five: Each night something new dooms the Royals
May 29, 2013 at 11:44p ET
And so it goes when a team is cemented in a funk: Instead of a new hero each night who secures a victory, there is virtually a new culprit instead who contributes heavily toward a defeat.
Wednesday night it was right-hander Aaron Crow, who entered the eighth inning with a somewhat comfortable 3-1 cushion against St. Louis. But Crow spit back the lead quickly and thoroughly by giving up five hits and four runs – his worst outing of the season.
The result was a 5-3 loss, the Royals' eighth straight and 19th in their last 23 games. And the defeat put the Royals all alone in last place in the American League Central.
This one may have stung more than any other recently because the Royals had it all set up according to their usual formula for winning: A solid outing by their starter, just enough runs by their lightweight offense, and a small lead turned over late to their normally solid and reliable bullpen.
But Crow, who now has given up nine hits and six runs in his last three outings, fell behind hitters and had no command. And manager Ned Yost couldn't get the game to closer Greg Holland, who hasn't had a save opportunity since May 6 (that's not a typo) and Royals fans will surely remember that game – the 2-1 loss to the White Sox that started this whole mess.
"Just not many quality pitches," Yost said of Crow.
Indeed there weren't.
TOUGH LUCK FOR MENDY
The Royals, as has been their custom during this season-turning tailspin, wasted another strong outing by a starter.
Luis Mendoza held the red-hot Cardinals to just one run on six hits in 5 2/3 innings and left with a 2-1 lead. Mendoza had great action on his sinker and his slow, sweeping slider.
Mendoza deserves credit for standing tall during this nightmarish losing spell and trying to pick up his teammates.
Mendoza also proved to Royals hitters that it's not exactly impossible to come up with a clutch hit. In the fifth inning after David Lough tripled, George Kottaras and Chris Getz each failed to situational hit and each lifted weak infield pop-ups.
But just when you thought the Royals were going to waste another golden scoring chance, Mendoza delivered his first career hit, a two-out line shot over the second baseman for an RBI and a 2-0 lead.
Mendoza also showed some toughness on the mound in the bottom of the fifth inning. With one out, he threw a perfect 3-2 slider to Cards pitcher Lance Lynn that should have been called strike three. Lynn was awarded a walk, and then leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter gifted a perfect double-play grounder to Getz at second. Getz fumbled it, and the Royals got only one out.
Instead of being rattled, Mendoza came back and struck out the dangerous Carlos Beltran.
The Royals turned one of the most sensational double plays of the season on Tuesday in a 4-1 loss to the Cards – that one was started by shortstop Alcides Escobar, who dived fully extended to his left, made a flip from his knees to Elliot Johnson, who fired a bullet to first for a double play. But that great play was largely forgotten because the Royals managed just two hits in the defeat.
On Wednesday, the Royals saved three runs with great defense. First, Lough, from right field, gunned down Allen Craig, who was trying to score from second on a single in the fourth. Then in the eighth, Escobar made another spectacular diving stop up the middle, got to his feet and threw out Carpenter at first, saving two runs.
But alas, those plays will be overshadowed by another stinging loss.
STILL NO OFFENSE
OK, it's hard to pin this loss solely on the offense, especially after Crow's awful outing.
But the offense did go just 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position, and one of those hits, an infield squibber by Escobar, didn't plate a run.
The Royals have not homered, incredibly, in 51 straight innings. That came against the Angels from Miguel Tejada, who is the only Royal to homer since May 14.
Amazing and mind-boggling. And another indisputable reason the Royals' season is slipping away.
The Royals have just 28 homers all season, last in the American League by a wide margin.
THE HOZ HITCH
I sat with an American League scout in the press box at Tuesday's game at The K, and one thing he noticed about struggling first baseman Eric Hosmer was the major hitch he has in his swing.
"There are two reasons he can't catch up to a fastball," the scout said. "First, he muscles up his upper body before each swing, and that tension slows everything down, as in bat speed. And two, he has a slow hitch before he swings. Why don't they move his hands closer to the plate to start with?
"And the tension part is an easy fix. You get power from your lower body. He's got that. Just loosen his top half and drive low. The hands and arms follow with better bat speed."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org