More missed chances and another loss

The losing streak continues and the Royals continue to squander opportunities on the bases, but there's some positive news on the injury front.

Ten.

You know exactly what that number means. The losing streak has reached double-digits. It’s the 12th time in franchise history the Royals have lost at least 10 consecutive games.

This is probably not the way you wanted to start your morning.

Take a moment to appreciate some of those dates. Kind of amazing that in the first 17 years of their existence, the Royals never lost 10 in a row. They were an expansion team, for crying out loud! That one 10-game losing streak that spanned two seasons is kind of weird. That was three losses to end 1991 and then seven defeats to open 1992. That 1992 season featured that brutal April where the Royals won three of their first 20 games. But they still didn’t lose 10 in a row that month!

And then you have the 21st century. Now it’s been nine times in the last 17 years where the Royals have lost 10 or more consecutive games. And if you look at that brutal run from 2005, it feels like the appropriate time to invoke the Bell Axiom: Never say things can’t get worse.

In this stretch, the Royals have been outscored 70-30 and have hit .221/.303/.336 as a team. And perhaps most painfully, all losses have come from within the division.

It’s a minor miracle the Royals haven’t fallen further in the standings. If you think things are going sideways in Kansas City, check in with a Twins fan sometime soon. And the Tigers, even though they have taken the first two games of this series, remain the Tigers.

Missed opportunities remain plentiful

Believe it or not, things started off just dandy for the Royals’ offense on Wednesday. The first three hitters of the game reached base when Whit Merrifield was hit by a pitch and Carlos Santana was walked. That set up Salvador Perez who doubled home a run. A day after hanging seven runs in the eighth and ninth inning, this had the potential to be a third consecutive massive inning. Such promise!

But they could only muster one more run on an Andrew Benintendi sacrifice fly.

Even while it felt as though the Royals could’ve scored more in that inning, it was a fleeting moment of success from that particular situation for the Royals. Overall in the current losing streak, there have been eight occasions where the Royals have put a runner on first and second with nobody out. From those situations, they have tallied a total of four runs. And that’s including the aforementioned two in the first inning on Wednesday. Unsurprisingly, that was the only time in the 10-game skid where they’ve plated more than a single run from that situation.

It’s a frustrating pattern of missed opportunities that have developed over these 10 losses. Eight times in this stretch the Royals have put their first two batters of an inning on base at first and second. That gives them a potential for a big inning. According to Tangotiger’s Run Expectancy Matrix when a team has a runner on first and second and no outs in an inning, from 2010 to 2015 team scored on average 1.4 runs. Obviously, the offensive profile of the game has changed since then, but it underscores that generally more than one run is scored from that situation. So in the first inning on Wednesday the Royals did probably what we would expect given how they started the inning. That was nice.

Truthfully, it was a rare moment of success in a dismal stretch. Unfortunately, the Royals reverted to recent form in the sixth.

Santana walked to open the inning and advanced to second on a Perez single. In this situation—runners on first and second and no outs—the Royals have about a 63 percent chance to score a run.

Damn your percentages! Jorge Soler grounded into a double play and Benintendi followed with a fly out to end the inning. No runs scored and another missed opportunity.

Let’s revisit that first inning. Another hallmark of this stretch is the productive outs like that Benintendi sacrifice fly that brought home the second run of the inning. Here’s how the Royals have created their 30 runs during the losing streak:

  • Home Runs — 12

  • Doubles — 8

  • Productive Outs — 7

  • Singles — 3

The Productive Out bullet encompasses three ground outs (including one where Salvador Perez hit into a double play), one instance of an error and three sacrifice flies. Don’t forget that stretch that ended Tuesday where the Royals scored four consecutive runs without a base hit, a span that covered 188 plate appearances. Of course you remember the “Keep The Line” moving mantra. That seems to have gone by the wayside. The Royals, like so many other teams, are overwhelmingly reliant on the home run to create runs. But their 32 home runs on the year puts them near the bottom of the league in dingers and their current .379 slugging percentage is well below the league average of .390. They are dependant upon stringing together hits to get things going. And those hits aren’t coming in bunches.

Back to those outs for one final thought. According to Baseball-Reference, the Royals have a 33.3 percent productive out percentage. That’s an advance of any runner when there are none out or driving home a runner with the second out of an inning. The Royals have had 114 opportunities to do this, and have converted 38 for their league-leading percentage. It’s nice they’re being productive, I suppose. It’s also killing any opportunity they may have for a big inning.

Injury updates

Kyle Zimmer reported to Triple-A for a rehab assignment for his left trap strain and threw 25 pitches in a scoreless inning of work on Wednesday. He walked two and struck out a pair. I would expect to see him back in the Kansas City bullpen in a matter of days. Zimmer will be joined by Jesse Hahn who threw just over three innings before hitting the IL with right shoulder impingement syndrome.

Getting those two back will be a massive boost to this bullpen. Yes, the offense has been getting manhandled over these 10 games, but the starting pitching hasn’t necessarily distinguished itself by going deep into games. The more quality arms for Mike Matheny to call on, the better.

Mondesi is set to begin a rehab assignment in Double-A on Thursday. He’s recovering from an oblique strain that has kept him sidelined for the entire season. Given he’s missed a month and a half of action, I would expect it to take a little more time to get him back to full game speed. Like with the relievers, the lineup can only be better with Mondesi in the fold, both offensively and especially defensively.

Central issues

  • Twins 8, White Sox 13

The two teams combined for 27 hits, perhaps most astoundingly were the four recorded by Billy Hamilton. Vindication for Tony LaRussa!

JA Happ was rocked for nine runs on nine hits in 3.1 innings while his counterpart Dallas Keuchel surrendered six runs on 8 hits through 5.2 frames.

  • Cubs 1, Cleveland 2 — 10 innings

Amed Rosario drove in both runs for Cleveland and had four of the club’s seven hits. James Karinchak stranded the Cubs’ free runner in the top of the 10th and did a little victory dance. Oh, to enjoy a win.

Up next

Daniel Lynch returns to the mound after failing to get out of the first inning in his previous start. He will face Spencer Turnbull. A lunchtime start at 12:10 to close out the three-game series.

The Royals just need a win.