OAKLAND — Twilight time proved to be bad luck for the Royals on Thursday when an otherwise catchable fly ball off the bat of the A’s Matt Chapman went for a tiebreaking sixth-inning double in Oakland’s 4-1 win over Kansas City.
With the sun down but not entirely set and the Coliseum lights not yet having full effect, Kansas City center fielder Paulo Orlando lost track of the ball, which hit off the fence just to the left of center field, allowing Khris Davis to score from second base.
Royals starter Jason Hammel, who’d allowed just one run and four hits in the first five innings, gave up two run-scoring singles later in the inning in what was otherwise a strong start.
“That’s a tough play out there,” Hammel said.
He pitched with the A’s for half a season in 2014, so seeing what the Oakland twilight could do came as no shock.
“There’s a ball that’s lost in the sky. I don’t know whether Paulo could have caught that or not. Twilight’s tough, and it’s a big yard.”
Orlando said he lost the ball completely, and that he could have caught it if he’d only been able to see it. He’d saved Alex Gordon when the left fielder lost a ball an inning earlier, but there was no one to save Orlando in the sixth.
“I saw the ball in left field,” he said. “But that other one, I lost completely.”
Manager Ned Yost found the game frustrating, not just because he said Orlando would otherwise have caught the ball, and not just because it was the Royals’ fifth consecutive loss. He said Hammel put together “one of the best performances I’ve seen since we’ve had him. He was commanding his slider. He was commanding his fastball.”
And Hammel was throwing strikes. He faced 27 batters, and 21 of them saw first-pitch strikes. But there was no win to show for it.
“I felt great,” said Hammel, now 2-6. “I threw five great innings. In the sixth, I guess I kind of ran out of gas, but I still made some good pitches. They strung a few together, and we weren’t able to answer back.”
That’s been the Royals’ mantra in June. In losing six of seven games this month, K.C. has scored zero or one run four times and had four or fewer hits three times. The Royals’ lone run came on Alcides Escobar’s leadoff homer in the third inning off Oakland starter Paul Blackburn (1-0), who was making his 2018 debut.
“Offensively, we’re just struggling right now,” Yost said. “It’s a shame that something like that [the lost fly ball] happened, but things like that do happen. But you have to be able to cover it offensively, and right now, we’re just not able to do that for some reason.”
Kansas City got a two-out double in the first inning from Mike Moustakas but didn’t have another runner get past first base other than Escobar.