Royals blow 3-run lead in loss to Pirates
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Vin Mazzaro picked up his first major league hit in the fourth and fell apart in the bottom half of the inning.
Kansas City manager Ned Yost thought the two results were connected.
Mazzaro failed to record an out in the fourth as the Pittsburgh Pirates scored five times and went on to a 5-3 victory over the Royals on Saturday night.
The right-hander helped himself with a two-out RBI single that gave Kansas City a 3-0 lead, then promptly gave away the lead during a wacky rally by surging Pittsburgh.
"It's been my experience that pitchers who aren't in the National League have a hard time whenever they get a hit and run the bases," Yost said. "I tried to get Vinnie to settle his heart rate down. When I saw a big inning might develop, especially knowing how good Pittsburgh's pitching staff is and how we've struggled to score run, I took him out because I wanted it to stop right there."
Clint Barmes drove in Pedro Alvarez with an infield hit as the Pirates scored five times on three singles, only one of which made it to the outfield. Barmes eventually came around to score on Neil Walker's bouncer, lifting Pittsburgh to a 4-3 lead.
"It wasn't loud but balls were finding grass and spots in the infield," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's a tough inning if you're playing defense because no balls are being barreled up."
It was indeed a frustrating inning for Yost as he watched from the dugout.
"They didn't hit any balls hard and they scored five runs," he said, shaking his head.
Mazzaro (2-1) didn't feel he was affected by his hit. He was bothered by his leadoff walk to Pedro Alvarez and his plunking of Jose Tabata.
"It was frustrating," Mazzaro said. "I set up the whole inning with the walk and hitting a batter."
Jared Hughes (2-0) pitched 2 1-3 scoreless innings to get the win and Joel Hanrahan got three outs for his 17th save in 19 opportunities.
Four Pirates relievers combined to work five scoreless frames after James McDonald gave up three runs in four innings.
The Royals went 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position.
"We're in a little bit of a lull right now and we've got to find a way to get that big hit with runners on second and third," Kansas City outfielder Jeff Francoeur said. "And you've got to give credit to Pittsburgh's pitching staff. They have the second-best ERA in the National League and there are a lot of good pitching staffs in the National League."
Yuniesky Betancourt hit a two-run homer and Eric Hosmer had two doubles for Kansas City, which has dropped three straight. Mazzaro was charged with four runs, three earned, and three hits.
The Pirates have won three straight and are 11-3 since May 25, the best record in the major leagues in that span. Pittsburgh, which hasn't had a winning season since 1992, also moved four games over .500 at 31-27.
Betancourt hit his third homer in the third inning.
After Alvarez and Tabata reached in the fourth, Rob Barajas singled to right to load the bases. Barmes brought home the first run with his grounder off the glove of diving shortstop Alcides Escobar.
Kelvin Herrera then came on to face pinch-hitter Matt Hague, who lifted a popup to right. Hosmer, normally Kansas City's first baseman, let the ball drop in front of him but grabbed it with his bare hand and threw a strike to catcher Brayan Pena, who juggled the ball and Tabata was ruled safe.
Hosmer was playing right field to make room for Billy Butler at first. Butler is the Royals' usual designated hitter, but Saturday night's game was in an NL park.
Alex Presley then hit a slow roller down the line that third baseman Mike Moustakas couldn't make a play on, driving in Barajas and tying it at 3. Walker gave the Pirates the lead and Garrett Jones drove in the final run of the inning with a fielder's choice.
NOTES: Kansas City placed RHP Felipe Paulino (right groin strain) on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Thursday, and recalled RHP Nate Adcock from Triple-A Omaha. RHP Luis Mendoza is expected to take Paulino's spot in the rotation and start Tuesday against Milwaukee. ... Pittsburgh RHP Jeff Karstens (right groin) will be limited to playing catch for five to seven days before being re-evaluated. Karstens, who has been on the DL since April 18 with right shoulder inflammation, was injured Thursday while making a rehab start for Triple-A Indianapolis. ... As part of a Negro Leagues tribute, the Royals wore replica Kansas City Monarchs uniforms and the Pirates wore Homestead Grays throwbacks. ... The three-game series ends Sunday afternoon with LHP Bruce Chen (5-5, 4.37 ERA) starting for Kansas City against RHP A.J. Burnett (5-2, 3.76 ERA).