KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s really no surprise that with the season on the line these past few weeks, the Royals’ offense has let them down.
After all, it has been that way all season.
And it was no different Tuesday night when rookie left-hander James Paxton of the Mariners silenced the Royals through seven shutout innings, striking out 10 in the process, on the way to an easy 4-0 win.
The loss all but eliminated the Royals from contention — their tragic number stands at two. The Royals will have to win their final five games and hope for a Hail Mary, meaning that either Tampa loses all five of its remaining games or that Cleveland loses four of five. Even then, the Royals would have to hope Texas loses three of five.
“We put ourselves in this situation,” left fielder Alex Gordon told The Kansas City Star after Tuesday’s loss. “It’s tough.”
More specifically, the Royals’ lack of offense put them in this position. They simply don’t have the firepower to rise above good pitching, or even mediocre pitching, for that matter.
Last Saturday, the Royals were stymied by the Rangers’ Matt Garza, who had been whacked around for 14 runs in his three previous starts covering 18 1/3 innings. Yet he breezed through the Royals’ lineup in a 3-1 win that prevented the Royals from a much-needed sweep in the three-game series.
In fact, in the Royals’ last seven losses, they have scored three runs or fewer each time.
And that has been the pattern throughout 2013 — when the Royals’ offense flounders, they lose.
This team will be remembered for producing one of the most exciting seasons since 1985. But it also will be remembered for its massive offensive shortcomings.
One statistic will forever define the 2013 Royals: They are 62-12 when they score four or more runs.
Keep in mind that the league average is 4.33 runs per game. So basically, all the Royals’ pitching staff asked of the offense was to be slightly below average, and a win was virtually guaranteed.
Another stat for you: When the Royals have scored exactly four runs this season, they are 15-6.
It has been a very simple formula for victory for the Royals: Get to four runs, and the Royals’ pitching and defense take care of the rest.
Bu the Royals’ offense could not do that enough this season, especially when it has mattered most.
During that awful stretch in May and early June when the Royals lost 22 of 28 games, the Royals averaged an anemic 2.3 runs per game during the losses.
When they lost five straight right before the All-Star break, the Royals averaged 2.4 runs per game.
And during that crippling seven-game losing streak in August, they averaged 2.5 runs per game in six of those losses — the one exception was the pitching meltdown in an 11-10 loss to the Nationals.
But the theme has been constant throughout the season: The Royals simply can’t generate the same type of offense as the teams that will make the playoffs.
Boston, Detroit and Oakland will be division winners, and they are the one, two and three offenses in the league. Also, Cleveland has scored 80 more runs than the Royals, and Texas has scored 67 more runs. Tampa Bay, hardly an offensive juggernaut, has still scored 41 more runs than the Royals.
To be fair, the Royals and general manager Dayton Moore deserve much credit for assembling a pitching staff and a defense superior enough to put the Royals into contention for the playoffs. That major step cannot be undervalued.
Hopefully, Moore and his staff have built a team that has turned a corner here.
But now Moore and Co. also know what the next phase of the Royals’ resurrection will entail: Find more offense.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email at email@example.com.