KANSAS CITY, Mo. — An enthusiastic crowd of 35,089 fans tried to will the Royals to a desperately needed win Saturday night.
But it’s likely that most of those fans left The K speechless after witnessing one of the most awful displays of clutch hitting from the Royals in years.
In fact, the Royals nearly set a franchise record: They stranded 16 runners in a demoralizing 3-2, 11-inning loss. The club record for runners LOB, set in 1972, is 17 (appropriate, perhaps, since it was Retro Night at the stadium).
"A very electric crowd," Lorenzo Cain said. "Very supportive and I wish we could have gotten them a win."
The pattern started Friday night when the Royals were almost as awful — they stranded 12 runners in a 6-1 loss.
Let that sink in: The Royals have had 31 baserunners in this series and only three have scored.
"It’s extremely agonizing," manager Ned Yost said. "We had a tremendous crowd and it’s frustrating not being able to perform in front of them."
The damage this offense is causing the team’s playoff picture is mounting: After Detroit split a doubleheader Saturday, the Royals dropped into a tie for first place in the Central.
Even more alarming, the surging Indians pulled within 3 1/2 games of the Royals, and no doubt are confident of a sweep.
The Royals had a chance to win it in the ninth when Jarrod Dyson came up with two runners on and two out. He struck out looking.
The Royals had an even better chance in the 10th. Sal Perez led off with a double. With one out, Cain reached on an infield single, pushing Perez to third. An intentional walk filled the bases with one out.
All Alcides Escobar needed was a sacrifice fly, a grounder to deep short or second, a hit or a walk. Instead, he chopped a soft grounder to third and Perez was an easy out at the plate. Then Jayson Nix struck out.
"If we’re going to make the playoffs, we’re going to have to come through in all those situations we had today," Cain said. "It’s everyone, not just one or two guys."
Left-hander Scott Downs, who has been close to terrible this season (5.14 ERA), quickly lost the game in the 11th, giving up a triple to Jose Ramirez and an RBI single to Michael Brantley. Another run later and The K began to empty out.
The Royals did push across a run in the bottom of the 11th. But with the tying run on second, Erik Kratz was called out on strikes.
LET’S GO ROYALS: Check out these photos of fans and the excitement around Royals baseball.
— Big Game James. You can’t say enough about the job that James Shields did against the Indians, who always seem to rattle the Royals’ pitching staff. Shields bore down, battled the Indians and was magnificent, giving up just one run through seven innings. The only run he allowed came on back-to-back doubles to Jason Kipnis and Yan Gomes in the fourth. In all, he gave up five hits while walking one and striking out four. Shields didn’t really want to talk about his performance after the frustrating loss. "The bottom line is that these are games we have to win," he said.
— The 8-9 guys. About the only thing the huge crowd could cheer about until the Royals tied it 1-1 in the eighth was a fantastic eighth inning by reliever Wade Davis, who continued his remarkable season. Davis blew fastball after fastball past the Indians and wound up striking out the side. When Davis fanned Michael Brantley for the third out, The K simply rocked like a playoff game. Greg Holland got the crowd rocking, too, by putting the Tribe down in order in the ninth.
— LoCain’s hustle. The Royals tied it in the eighth when someone finally put the ball in play with a runner on third — that would be Cain, who hit a grounder to short and beat out the potential double-play relay throw to first, allowing Alex Gordon to score.
— The Butler at-bat. Probably the key at-bat in the game came in the first inning. The Royals quickly loaded the bases against Trevor Bauer with two singles and a walk. The Royals at that point could have punched a huge early hole in the game if Billy Butler could have come through. At the very least, the Royals were hoping Butler would roll into a double play and get a run home, and not waste the opportunity to score. But Butler quickly fell in the hole 0-2, fouled a couple pitches off, then struck out on a pitch in the dirt. And Butler’s teammates behind him, Perez and Raul Ibanez, did him no favors; they both struck out as well, which continued what’s been a frustrating homestand offensively.
— Oh, my, Moose. Mike Moustakas has had a totally forgettable homestand, going 3 for 19. He short-circuited a potential rally in the fourth after the first two hitters drew walks. Instead of being patient — Bauer was wild most of the game — Moose went hacking on the first pitch and fouled it off. Remember, the two hitters in front of him had just walked. Moose kept hacking until he finally rolled into a double play to kill the rally. Then in the sixth when the huge crowd again came to life as Cain’s double put runners on second and third, Moose grounded out. It got worse. In the eighth, with the score tied 1-1, Moose came up with runners on first and third and a chance to put the Royals ahead again. He grounded out softly to first.
— Sal’s two at-bats. Perez also could have been the hero but he had two miserable at-bats when all he had to do was hit a fly ball or even a ground ball. We mentioned the strikeout in the first inning. In the eighth, Perez came up with runners on second and third — and the Indians were conceding the run by playing the infield back. Any ball in play on the ground would have tied the game. Instead, Perez whiffed again. Perez did come through with a leadoff double in the 10th, but naturally was stranded. And Perez did knock in a run in the 11th with an RBI double, so he is somewhat pardoned.