Royals pounded by Twins 10-1 as offense continues to struggle
So, this was the time that the Royals were supposed to take off, playing nine games against the lowly Minnesota Twins and even lowlier Houston Astros over the next 10 days.
The Royals did not exactly get off to a flying start, getting drilled by the Twins and their youthful and shaky starter Kyle Gibson by a score of 10-1.
— Learn from Omar Infante, guys. Omar Infante, back in the lineup, had a great first inning. He fought off a tough pitch from Gibson and blooped a single to right. Then, after he reached second on Eric Hosmer’s single, Infante alertly took third on a ball in the dirt from Gibson to Billy Butler. Butler then hit a double-play grounder to shortstop that was bobbled, and the Twins got only an out at first. That allowed Infante to score from third.
— Patience at the plate. While his teammates continued to swing wildly at pitches out of the zone, Butler did show some patience in the sixth inning by working a walk off Gibson. Naturally, though, Alex Gordon swung at the very next pitch and rolled into a double play, 4-6-3.
— Kelvin looks good. OK, it’s a stretch to suggest this, but at least reliever Kelvin Herrera, whom the Royals need desperately to be good this year, turned in a solid inning. Herrera gave up an unearned run in the eighth inning when Alcides Escobar, trying to turn a double play, dropped the lead throw. But Herrera struck out two and got a weak ground ball to end the inning. Herrera’s fastball looked dominating, like it used to in 2012 and early 2013.
— Cain’s wasted at-bat. The Royals had a a great start to the top of the second when Mike Moustakas drilled a double over the center fielder’s head. But Lorenzo Cain followed with a terrible at-bat, especially with his mental approach. Cain dug himself into a hole by swinging at two pitches out of the zone. Then, after working the count full, he swung wildly at ball four, down and in. If Cain had shortened his swing and punched the ball to the right side, Moustakas might have taken third base. Moose then would have scored when Escobar followed with a deep flyout to left. Just a poor approach from Cain, especially when the game still mattered.
— Not Gold Glove defense. We all know the Royals’ formula for winning — great pitching and great defense. We know they can’t hit like average major-league teams do, so when they don’t play fantastic defense, their odds of winning diminish greatly. On Friday, the Royals didn’t play bad defense, but they didn’t make the great plays that usually bail their bad offense out. In the first, Escobar couldn’t knock down a grounder up the middle that resulted in an RBI single. Then right fielder Norichika Aoki couldn’t judge his jump properly on a deep fly and he dropped the ball at the wall, allowing another run to score. Later, in the bottom of the fourth, Escobar did make a great diving stop on a grounder, and threw a one-hop strike to first baseman Eric Hosmer. But Hosmer couldn’t make the scoop as he tried his typical bullfighter "ole" swipe at the ball. In the eighth, Escobar lost his concentration and dropped a throw from Infante to start a potential double play.
— No margin for error: You could tell early on that it wasn’t going to be Bruce Chen’s night. Chen did not get any close calls from the home-plate umpire, and when you’re a soft thrower such as Chen, you need to get the corners. The result was predictable — Chen got battered for seven hits, two walks and six runs in 3 2/3 innings and the Royals were dead in the water in this one early, especially considering their pop-gun offense.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email firstname.lastname@example.org.