Flanny's Five: Royals struggle in identity crisis-fueled slump
MAY 25, 2013 6:17p ET
At some point, slumps are no longer slumps: It’s simply who you are.
The Royals desperately are hoping that’s not the case, though, as they have dropped 15 of 19, including eight of their last nine.
But the team that surged to a 17-10 record to start the season seems a distant memory now.
Royals manager Ned Yost continues to vow he won’t make major changes to the lineup, and he suggested strongly that he was staying the course again after Saturday’s 7-0 loss to the Angels.
“I don’t answer those types of questions after a ballgame,” Yost said. “There’s too much emotion involved right afterward. You’re upset and emotions are high. It’s best to think things through.”
The main culprit, of course, has been a pitiful offense that was below average to start the season, and has become progressively worse through the losing stretch.
In the 15 losses during this stretch, the Royals have averaged a paltry 2.06 runs per game – that might be acceptable in the MLS, but it is woeful in baseball, especially in the American League.
Yost and the Royals are trying to stave off a defeatist attitude, even though it seems one-run or two-run deficits appear much bigger because of the Royals’ impotent offense.
“You try to stay positive and tell yourself you can get back in the games,” Yost said, “but over the last 10 days or so, it hasn’t been the case. It’s been tough.”
PRESSURE ON PITCHERS
There’s little doubt that the Royals’ offensive shortcomings have put a ton of pressure on the pitching staff, which has to feel like it must shut out the opponent each night just to have a remote chance at winning.
Jeremy Guthrie was lights out Saturday through five innings, holding the Angels hitless, but he was actually losing in the process, 1-0. That only run came in the fourth on a walk, a stolen base, an error and a routine, run-scoring grounder.
Guthrie lost his no-hit bid in the sixth when Hank Conger golfed a low fastball over the left-field fence for a home run. Josh Hamilton put the Angels up 3-0 with a homer in the seventh.
But that 3-0 lead probably looked like 10-0 to Guthrie and the Royals.
Guthrie, though, said the Royals’ pitchers aren’t thinking yet that any run they allow will beat them.
“No additional pressure,” Guthrie insisted. “We’ve all been here before. We always approach it like we will give up no runs, and work with our catchers and get the job done.
“I don’t characterize this loss any different than any other loss.”
Yost, though, clearly is feeling for his starting pitchers.
“Man, he looked good for a long while,” Yost said. “I mean, a walk, an error, a routine grounder to third by ( Albert) Pujols, and they get that first run. Both homers to Conger and Hamilton were on really good pitches. Tough loss for Jeremy.”
Wow, let’s review the tough day for second baseman Chris Getz.
First, he lined out to second baseman Howie Kendrick not once but twice. Then he failed to knock down a throw from catcher George Kottaras on Mike Trout’s steal in the fourth inning, allowing Trout to take third and then score on a groundout.
Then in the bottom of the fifth, Getz came up for the second straight game with runners on first and third with one out. And for the second straight game, Getz killed the rally by rolling into a double play – only on Saturday, Getz was safe at first (replays showed he beat the throw).
Getz argued, as did Yost, with first-base umpire Marty Foster, who had blown another call the night before when he called Trout safe at second on a steal when Trout was clearly tagged out by Getz.
Getz was thrown out by Foster a half-inning later on Saturday, just his second ejection in the majors (the first was in 2011).
“Obviously, some frustrations and maybe a little carryover from the night prior,” Getz said. “Close play at first base and he had it one way, I had it another.
“I said some things and he didn’t like it, and he tossed me.”
But actually, Getz didn’t get tossed right away. He didn’t get tossed until after he had gone back on the field and played another half-inning.
“I got some more opinions on the result of the play,” Getz told FOX Sports Kansas City diplomatically, ”and it gave me a little more confidence to air it out.”
I asked Getz if he would share what he said to Foster to get ejected. Getz smiled and said, “Absolutely not.”
Let’s face it: One reason the Royals started the season 17-10 was the hitting of Alex Gordon and Billy Butler, who are tied for the team lead with 30 RBIs each. They also are first and second in homers – Gordon with six and Butler with five.
But lately, they’ve both gone into a funk together, and that has doomed the offense.
Gordon is just 1 for his last 14 and Butler is 0 for his last 12.
With no one offensively there to pick up Gordon and Butler, the results have been predictable – the Royals have totaled just seven runs in the last four games, including Saturday’s shutout.
IF IT WEREN’T FOR BAD LUCK…
No doubt the Royals have endured some bad luck, too, such as Gordon’s line-shot-out to left with the bases loaded Friday night in a one-run loss. Then there were Getz’s two lineouts Saturday to second base, and another by Eric Hosmer that killed a rally.
Throw in the blown calls by Foster, too, and, well…
“It’s all kind of tied together right now,” Getz said. “We’re not catching a lot of breaks. But that happens when you’re losing – nothing goes right.
“But we believe in ourselves and we believe in our talent. We believe we’re going to do some good things here. It’s going to happen.”
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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