KANSAS CITY — After a pair of uncharacteristically sloppy starts, Jakob Junis finally looked familiar. Unfortunately for him, so did the Royals’ offense.
Junis tossed six innings of five-hit, three-run ball in a 3-2 loss to the Rangers on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium, a solid outing spoiled by little support from a reeling offense hitting an American League-worst .188 in the month of June.
The right-hander didn’t have a clean frame in his outing, but the fact he was able to keep his team within striking distance was appreciated by manager Ned Yost.
“He had to grind it out,” Yost said. “I don’t think he had his great slider today, but got through with one that was good enough. Wasn’t really pinpoint with his fastball. But that’s the mark of a good pitcher. They can grind it out and keep you in the game, and get you through six innings.”
Kansas City registered just five hits against Rangers starter Austin Bibens-Dirkx, who was called up from Triple-A Round Rock on Tuesday. He allowed one run across 6 2/3 innings. In his last two starts at Round Rock, Bibens-Dirkx had allowed 11 runs in 10 1/3 innings.
The Royals have now lost nine straight and 15 of 16.
Junis allowed a leadoff single to Shin-Soo Choo, who stretched his on-base streak to 34 games and scored on Nomar Mazara’s sacrifice fly. Junis struggled with the leadoff batter again in the second, as Jurickson Profar singled then scored on a double play.
With the deficit cut to one on Hunter Dozier’s RBI double in the bottom of the second, Junis was steady until the sixth, when he allowed a solo homer to Rougned Odor on a 1-2 inside fastball to make it a 3-1 game.
“We were just trying to go in,” Junis said. “We had thrown a breaking ball and everything was pretty much away. Tried to surprise him in, and he was ready for it.”
Mike Moustakas hit a leadoff homer — that traveled a projected 422 feet according to Statcast™ — into the fountains in the ninth off reliever Jake Diekman. It was his 14th of the season, and the Royals’ first run after the fifth inning since June 9.
“Would’ve been a lot better if we would’ve ended up winning the game obviously,” Moustakas said. “Put a good swing on a good pitch, that’s a great pitcher. Just got a slider out in front, was able to clip it, and it got out of the park.”
Salvador Perez followed with a single, but he was thrown out at second on a fielder’s choice. With Ryan Goins at the plate, Dozier, the potential tying run at first, attempted a delayed steal and was thrown out by catcher Isiah Kiner-Falefa to end the game.
“Perfect time to try that play right there,” Yost said. “In case you probably haven’t noticed, we’ve been having trouble bunching some hits together. It’s a chance to maybe hopefully catch them by surprise, and get into scoring position where one hit will tie the ballgame up and keep us going.”