ARLINGTON — When the Rangers visited Kansas City for the first series of the regular season, they saw a mighty offensive outburst from a Royals team primed to be the best in baseball after a month of the season.
At the end of June in Texas, the situation looked much different.
The Royals suffered a series sweep with Sunday afternoon’s 4-1 loss at Globe Life Field. It’s Kansas City’s fifth three-game sweep so far this season and came at the hands of a team that entered the weekend 21 games under .500 and 20 games out of first place in the American League West.
Now, the Royals, 1-5 on this 10-game road trip, head back to the East Coast after just losing a three-game series in New York to face the American League East-leading Red Sox, who just swept the Yankees this weekend, in a four-game set at Fenway Park starting on Monday.
The margin for error seems miniscule as they fight through another five-game losing streak, and Sunday showed why.
Texas starter Jordan Lyles held the Royals to one run in seven innings despite allowing seven hits. Kansas City was 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left seven on base. The Royals had opportunities in the first, third, fifth and eighth innings, but the deflating runners in scoring position trend showed itself again; Kansas City is .169 (27-for-160) with runners in scoring position over its last 21 games since June 5.
“We’ve got opportunities to make something happen,” manager Mike Matheny said. “Minimal happened in the fifth with just one [run]. We had chances to get multiple runs and big innings. We needed a big hit. We talk about that a lot.”
While Whit Merrifield went 3-for-4 with the Royals’ lone RBI in the fifth, Carlos Santana and Salvador Perez went a combined 0-for-7, with Santana’s walk in the eighth. Those are two of the club’s biggest bats, and the lineup depends on their production.
With Andrew Benintendi and Adalberto Mondesi on the injured list, as well as Hunter Dozier and Jorge Soler going through the worst stretches of their careers — they were a combined 0-for-8 with three strikeouts on Sunday — having little to no production from the middle of the lineup becomes glaring on days like this one.
“We’re putting a lot of weight on certain parts of the lineup, and we actually had them in the right position,” Matheny said. “But that next man up, too, we sometimes fall into that trap of trying to do too much in those situations instead of taking what they’re going to give us. We had some missed opportunities in four different innings.”
As the offense works through its struggles, early leads given up by the Royals pitching staff tends to hurt more than most. Starter Brady Singer’s three-run first inning happened because of his errant throw on the first batter of the game and then mistake pitches in 0-2 counts on Adolis García’s triple and Joey Gallo’s two-run home run. The Royals had a season high-tying three errors in the finale, two of which led to runs.
Sunday’s loss also marked the Royals’ fourth five-game losing streak this season, joining the Rockies and the Pirates as teams with four separate losing streaks of at least five games.
“Just try to stay even keel through the ups and downs,” Merrifield said. “We seem to get really down when things don’t go well. And really high when things are going well. It’s good when it’s going good, and we can ride that as long as we can, but … it’s hard to be really hard on yourself every day in this game when things aren’t going well.
“We just got to be a little more even keel and things will be a little less streaky.”
The Royals are in the midst of a 20-game stretch without an off-day, so they must hit the reset button quickly. They took two out of three against the Red Sox last weekend in Kansas City, so they’ll look to draw on that ahead of this four-game set.
And the belief in the roster they have is still there, despite the losses piling up.
“We’ve still got a lot of confidence in the talent we have in there,” Merrifield said. “We haven’t done enough to win a lot of games. We’ve won some, we’ve been on good runs. But we’ve been on bad stretches. I don’t know how to be less streaky. I really don’t. But we have a lot of confidence in these guys, and we know some of these guys are better than they’re playing. Just a matter of trying to figure out what we can do to get everybody clicking.
“Got a three-hour flight to forget about [the series sweep] and get ready for Boston tomorrow.”