ST. PETERSBURG — The Royals broke their scoring drought, but the team with the worst offense in the American League could do little else against Tampa Bay’s rising star left-hander Blake Snell and the Rays’ bullpen.
Rookie first baseman Ryan O’Hearn ended the Royals’ scoreless innings streak at 20 with a fifth-inning home run. But Kansas City made no other noise during a 4-1 loss to the Rays on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field.
The Royals struck out 16 times on the night.
“We struck out 16 times tonight, and that’s just not acceptable,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “It’s way, way too many punchouts. It’s some over-aggressiveness. Some of it is trying to be too fine. Some is just, you know, over-swinging at times. It’s just a combination of things.”
O’Hearn got his first hit off a left-hander in his brief Major League career after going 0-for-14, and it was a big one. O’Hearn belted a 1-1 four-seam fastball from Snell the opposite way for his fifth home run of the season.
“I kind of watched a lot of video and saw that [Snell] throws a lot away to lefties with fastballs, so I was looking fastball,” O’Hearn said. “First at-bat I saw everything he had, so I was more ready the second at-bat.
“I’ve been seeing the ball off lefties well all year, so to go 0-for- or whatever it was, was frustrating. So getting that one is a confidence builder I can still hit lefties.”
Yost was impressed again with his young first baseman.
“[Home run] against a tough lefty,” Yost said. “But yeah, stayed on it, stayed inside it to drive it the other way. It was impressive.
“Well we’ve seen it in Spring Training, too, him and [Frank] Schwindel. If you guys remember, they just put on a heck of a power display in Spring Training, both of them. It’s definitely there.”
Right-hander Glenn Sparkman, making his second Major League start, got into trouble with his pitch count from the start, throwing 29 pitches to maneuver through a scoreless first inning.
“No explanation, just need to be a little more efficient,” Sparkman said. “I definitely need to work on some things, like [stop] falling behind hitters, putting hitters in fastball counts.”
But Sparkman’s pitch quality was fine through three innings, allowing just one run on a home run to Willy Adames. Sparkman also struck out five during that stretch.
Sparkman ran into some tough luck in the fourth. He gave up a one-out infield dribbler for a hit to Michael Perez. With two outs, Sparkman walked Tommy Pham. Then Joey Wendle pulled a ground ball just over the first-base bag and fair by an inch — the ball rolled into the corner for a two-run triple.
“The ones down the line are tough to swallow,” Sparkman said.
Sparkman left after four innings, having thrown 88 pitches, 48 for strikes.