KANSAS CITY — Right-hander Jakob Junis has certainly had his share of ups and downs this season, but he showed on Sunday afternoon that he’s continuing to trend in a positive direction.
Junis tossed six innings of one-run ball in the Royals’ 8-2 loss to the Cardinals at Kauffman Stadium, allowing just three hits and striking out eight in a strong outing before the bullpen struggled late in the I-70 Series finale.
“Came in with a good game plan,” Junis said. “Hit my spots with my fastball, and played my slider off that, and had some good results.”
The Royals have now lost nine of their last 10.
Junis got the ball rolling early, striking out Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina to start the game. He picked up three more K’s before allowing his first hit, a dribbler through the hole of the infield by Patrick Wisdom in his first career Major League at-bat.
Wisdom scored the lone run surrendered by Junis. After Molina was hit by a pitch, Jose Martinez knocked the rookie in with a single to center that tied the game at 1 and moved Molina to third. Junis buckled down, however, getting Marcell Ozuna to line out to first baseman Lucas Duda on the next pitch to end the inning.
Out of Junis’ eight strikeouts, seven came on his slider.
“It was good,” Junis said of his go-to finishing pitch. “Throwing it at the right times, not leaving it over the middle of the plate. Trying to keep it down. When I wasn’t striking guys out with it, I got some ground balls and some outs with it as well.”
Junis exited after the sixth. Despite Junis sitting at just 96 pitches, manager Ned Yost said he didn’t consider trotting Junis back out there for the seventh.
“If I had more of a lead, I would have,” Yost said. “But a one-run lead, I’m not gonna go get him after the first guy. Just go give the reliever a clean inning.”
Unfortunately, that’s where things went awry for the Royals. Jason Hammel entered in relief and allowed four straight batters to reach as Wisdom knocked in the tying run with a single. Lefty Tim Hill came on and got one out, but Kevin McCarthy allowed the go-ahead two-run single to Molina in the next at-bat as the Cardinals took a 4-2 lead.
All three runs in the seventh were charged to Hammel, who took the loss.
“Feel bad for [Junis], threw the hell out of the ball,” Hammel said. “Deserved better. That’s a tough lineup. Pretty much set the tone for the rest of the game right there, coming in and not even getting an out. I’m pretty embarrassed.”
The Cardinals scored another run in the eighth on Greg Garcia’s RBI double off McCarthy, and they added three more in the ninth against Wily Peralta on Molina’s double and a two-run homer from Paul DeJong.