Why Royals struggle to reach magical fourth run: Not hitting in the clutch

Eric Hosmer struck out with two runners on base in the seventh inning Wednesday.

Mark Duncan/AP

Royals fans by now should have the magic number memorized — over the last two years, when the Royals score four runs, they almost always win.

Last year, the Royals were 64-13 when they got to four runs. This year, they are 10-0.

The league average over last year and this: right around four runs.

In other words, if the Royals’ offense could merely be average ….

That magic number exists because, of course, the Royals have had an outstanding rotation. And the defense is arguably the best in baseball. And the bullpen last year was the best in the league.

But why is it so hard for the Royals to get to four runs?

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For starters, of course, they struggle with power. They were dead last in the league in homers with 112. And they are dead last again this season with nine, though they have hit three since arriving in Cleveland.

But when you don’t hit for power, you must do some other things well to be at least average offensively. And one of those things is to hit in the clutch.

This just in: The Royals don’t really do that, either.

Last year, with two outs and runners in scoring position (RISP), the Royals hit just .243. (With two outs and runners on second and third, they hit .175.)

And in what baseball-reference.com refers to as late and close games — in the seventh inning or later with the Royals tied, ahead by one, or with the tying run at least on deck — the Royals hit just .250 as a team.

This year has been far worse.

The Royals are hitting just .224 with RISP overall. And with two out and runners in scoring position, they are hitting just .193.

Late and close games? The Royals are hitting just .226 as a team.

The Royals tend to do much of their damage in the first six innings, just like last season. But if they have visions of the playoffs, they’d best start hitting with the pressure on.

You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.