Granted, in the big scheme of things, we’re just about 10 minutes into the season, but already the Royals are just 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position.
And while it’s fair to say that expectations should be low going against Cy Young winners on consecutive days, the Royals also know that if they want to be the best in the division, they’ll eventually have to beat the best.
Through two games, the Royals’ offense, the dead weight that dragged them down in 2013, continues to be a load.
And after another walk-off Tigers win Wednesday, the Royals are now 0-2.
— Royals’ ninth. Alex Gordon came up huge in the ninth with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly, the only Royal to deliver all day. But credit also goes to Omar Infante for getting the rally started with a single after getting down two strikes, and to Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler for patiently waiting out walks.
— Vargas. Newcomer Jason Vargas was simply fantastic, lasting seven innings and giving up just one run while striking out six. He struck out Miguel Cabrera looking in the first — that doesn’t happen often. Then, in the sixth, with runners on first and third and one out, he got Cabrera to hit a weak ground ball to third and the Royals got the out at home. Vargas then struck out Victor Martinez to escape the jam. Vargas deserved a better fate.
— The ‘pen. Everyone will focus on Tim Collins’ wobbly effort in the bottom of the 10th, but before that, Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis turned in shutout innings to get the game to extra innings. Davis looked especially sharp, and if the Royals can locate the Herrera they had two years ago, manager Ned Yost will have another option for an eighth-inning guy.
— The 3-and-0 DP. This game might have been lost in the Royals’ first half inning. Max Scherzer clearly was shaky as Norichika Aoki walked and Omar Infante singled. Eric Hosmer lifted a long fly out that moved Aoki to third. Then Billy Butler came up and the count went to 3-and-0 as Scherzer struggled with his command. Now, I understand Yost’s thinking by giving Butler the green light — the 3-0 pitch might be the best pitch Butler will see all day from Scherzer. But I’ve seen a lot of Royals baseball in my time, and I have rarely seen a Royals hitter consistently do damage on 3-and-0 counts. Besides, as Hal McRae used to say, if you take a strike, the pitcher still has to throw you two more just like it, so be patient. A walk there would have loaded the bases for Alex Gordon. Instead, Butler hacked at the 3-0 pitch and rolled into a double play to kill the threat.
— Moose’s struggles. OK, so it’s low-hanging fruit to be picking on Mike Moustakas, who had another fantastic spring in Arizona and is off to yet another awful start. Moose is now 0 for 8. Worse yet, he’s not having anything close to productive at-bats. Exhibit A: After Sal Perez doubled to start the eighth against a tiring Scherzer, Moustakas struck out swinging, and looked bad doing so. Guess they didn’t throw him changeups in spring training.
— Walk hard. Obviously, Collins wasn’t trying to walk leadoff man Austin Jackson in the bottom of the 10th, which, of course, led to the loss. Collins fell behind 3-and-0, battled back, then lost Jackson on a fastball inside. But this was Collins’ story last season — too often he fell behind to the very first hitter he faced. The Royals keep harping that they want Collins to challenge hitters, so obviously it’s simply a matter of poor command.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at email@example.com.