What's the deal? Royals' bats silenced by Astros
MAY 28, 2014 12:17a ET
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Royals skipper Ned Yost got ejected for the second time this season during the Royals' flat 3-0 loss to Houston.
And his emotions afterward were about as tense and wired as perhaps we've seen all season.
"I got frustrated on some calls that Jeremy (Guthrie) should have got," Yost said after the game, still noticeably peeved. "... I thought he had (Robbie) Grossman struck out in the sixth."
And Yost also clearly is getting more frustrated with his team's lifeless offense. He seemed torn Tuesday trying to distinguish what was great pitching against his offense or what was, of course, just a poor offense.
At first Yost credited Astros starter Collin McHugh, who threw seven shutout innings.
"Tonight was good pitching," Yost said. "At times, I'll cover for my guys when the pitching isn't that great and we're struggling. But tonight wasn't the case.
"(McHugh) threw a really good game. (But) we swung at some curveball strikes and yet we swung at some that weren't, too. But for us to be successful, we're going to have to start making adjustments, too.
"I just have higher expectations for our offense to be able to compete against higher-level pitching."
Pressed to go into a little more detail about his struggling offense, Yost didn't hesitate.
"We're making way too many first-pitch outs," he said. "We're not swinging at our pitch. In crucial situations, we're taking what the pitcher gives us instead of waiting for our pitch to drive.
"We've got to be able to not be afraid to hit with a two-strike approach. They'll get it. They've done it before. It's just taken longer than I expected or wanted it to."
-- Real Guts battles hard. Guthrie didn't have his best command (or home-plate umpire Kerwin Danley didn't allow him to), yet Guthrie fought his way through six innings and numerous jams. The Astros' only run off him was a cheapie in the fourth -- two walks and a bloop single to center by Matt Dominguez. An error on center fielder Lorenzo Cain allowed both runners to move into scoring position, but Guthrie struck out Marc Krauss and got Grossman to fly out to left. The Astros had two on and none out in the fifth but Guthrie got a double-play grounder to stop that rally. Guthrie then worked out of a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the sixth by getting Marwin Gonzalez on a groundout.
Guthrie went six innings, allowing just the one run. He also appreciated Yost's support in arguing with Danley. "You always appreciate your manager having your back," Guthrie said.
-- Ned blows his stack. The Royals had issues with Danley all night as several hitters questioned whether McHugh's 73-mph curve actually floated into the zone instead of around it. Yost finally blew his stack in the top of the sixth when Danley called a 1-2 fastball on Grossman a ball -- the pitch appeared to nick the outside corner on replay.
After Grossman followed up on the next pitch with a single, Alex Pressley singled as well, loading the bases. Yost came out to chat with Guthrie, but all he really wanted was a piece of Danley. When Danley finally came out to break up the chat, Yost said a few choice words and got tossed.
-- Sharp double play. Since there was absolutely nothing to talk about from another lackluster offensive effort from the Royals, we'll have to go with a defensive play. First baseman Eric Hosmer made a terrific snatch off a sharp grounder from Dexter Fowler in the seventh to start a 3-6-3 double play. Hoz grabbed the hot shot, stepped back to give himself a clear alley to throw to second and fired a strike to shortstop Alcides Escobar, who did a 360 after catching the ball and fired a strike back to Hoz.
-- More bad offense. The Royals had no answers for McHugh, who came into the game with a career 6.43 ERA and a 2-11 record. He breezed through the Royals' impatient lineup, giving up just five singles (what else?) while walking none (naturally) and striking out nine. Hard to imagine it can get any worse for the Royals, now the worst offensive team in the American League (last in runs scored).
"We've just got to find a way to turn this around," Hosmer said. "Our pitching has been way too good to let this happen."
Asked what it will take to turn the offense around, Hosmer said: "I have no idea. If I did, I'd tell you and we'd be doing it."
-- Do your job at the plate. The Royals preach situational hitting every day, and yet the results just aren't there. Another example came in the fifth after Cain led off with a single. Escobar followed by not being able to get Cain to second, instead striking out. Jimmy Paredes then singled to right, which would have scored Cain had Escobar advanced the runner.
-- Sloppy defense. It's rare when the Royals' defense doesn't excel. And it certainly didn't Tuesday, though that hardly mattered. Cain made a rather sloppy effort to scoop up a soft single to center, and that allowed two base runners to move up an extra base (though they didn't score). After a nice pickoff move by left-hander Tim Collins in the eighth, Hoz threw the ball past Escobar into left field and the runner was safe (though that runner also didn't score). And the Royals didn't react well to back-to-back suicide squeeze attempts by Houston's Grossman in the eighth. He fouled off the first attempt but then came back with the same play and Collins threw a curve into the dirt and to the backstop, allowing the runner charging from third to score.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at email@example.com.