KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There are ample reasons for Ned Yost to be concerned about the Royals’ struggling offense, from three recent shutouts to the prolonged slumps of stars such as Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain.
But the fact he’s won a World Series with those same guys puts their manager at ease.
"We’re not firing on all cylinders," Yost conceded after the latest flop, a 2-0 loss to the Washington Nationals on Monday night in which Kansas City could only muster five hits.
"We’ve got guys that are struggling right now," he continued, "guys that are proven players, guys that have tremendous track records and they’re going to break out of it real soon."
It can’t happen soon enough. The Royals have lost six of their last seven games.
Gio Gonzalez (2-1) scattered four hits and a pair of walks over six innings in his latest smooth start for Washington before Sammy Solis, Shawn Kelley and Oliver Perez got the game to Jonathan Papelbon.
The Nationals’ closer breezed through a perfect ninth to wrap up their fourth straight win.
Edinson Volquez (3-2) needed 29 pitches just to navigate the first inning for Kansas City, when the Nationals scored both their runs. But he wound up giving his scuffling club a chance, striking out seven while allowing just seven hits and a walk over 7 2/3 innings.
"We’re still the same. We know we’re going to put it together sooner or later," Volquez said. "We’re not worried about what happens in April or May. We know what kind of team we have."
In the first inning, it looked as if the Nationals would continue the misery Volquez experienced his last time out against the Angels, when he allowed eight runs on a career-high 12 hits in five innings.
Michael Taylor worked a leadoff walk and Anthony Rendon followed with a single. Ryan Zimmerman drove in the first run with a double, and Daniel Murphy’s run-scoring groundout made it 2-0.
Volquez eventually settled down, retiring nine straight before Murphy’s single in the fourth. But by that point, Gonzalez was doing such a good job that even a two-run lead seemed insurmountable.
He didn’t allow a single until the third, then watched catcher Jose Lobaton throw out Cain trying to steal to end the inning. Gonzalez allowed another single in the fifth before getting out of a two-on, one-out jam by inducing back-to-back fly balls to end the sixth.
"Us being able to nab Lorenzo at third base right there was a big turning point in the ballgame," Murphy said. "Great play by Jose behind the plate."
Alcides Escobar brought some life to a crowd of 32,394 with his double off Kelley in the eighth, but the Washington reliever bounced back to strike out Cain. Perez set down Eric Hosmer and Kendrys Morales to end the inning, and Papelbon took care of the rest.
"That is one heck of a lineup," Gonzalez said. "They’re going to go up there and work the count. They’re not going to swing just to swing. They’re going to go out there and put some balls in play and make some damage out of it. I’m just grateful some of those balls were hit at guys."
STATS AND STREAKS
Nationals slugger Bryce Harper ended an 0-for-16 skid with a soft single in the sixth, though he was promptly thrown out trying to steal second. … Murphy reached 1,000 career hits with his double in the sixth. … Hosmer had a single and two walks. He’s reached base safely in 20 of 21 games. … Gonzalez snapped a five-start winless streak in interleague play. … Kansas City was 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position.
ROYAL (BLACK AND) BLUE
Gordon was plunked leading off the second inning. It was the 71st time he has been hit by a pitch, tying him with David DeJesus for third-most in club history.
Royals RHP Luke Hochevar was available out of the bullpen after getting a couple of days off to rest some minor tightness in his elbow. Hochevar has had Tommy John surgery in the past, so Yost said he was being cautious with him. "He feels good," Yost said.
Royals RHP Chris Young and Nationals RHP Tanner Roark spent part of the 2013 season as teammates at Triple-A Syracuse in the Nationals organization. Young returned to the big leagues the following season with Seattle, and he has spent the past two seasons in Kansas City.