Royals come back late, fall short in loss
KC scores five unanswered runs; Buck hits two home runs
KANSAS CITY -- Jorge De La Rosa's problem on Saturday wasn't control; he threw plenty of strikes. The quandary lay in the quality of those strikes, strikes that were often over the heart of the plate and very hittable.
De La Rosa had another poor start and suffered his fourth defeat in five starts in a 9-8 loss to the Marlins at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals' offense rallied for five runs in the last three innings, but De La Rosa's early problems put the team in a huge hole, one it ultimately could not get out of.
In his poor outings, De La Rosa was always a victim of not repeating his motion, yielding multiple walks and high pitch counts and suffering early exits. Against Florida, De La Rosa tossed 65 percent strikes -- his second-highest percentage in an outing since April 22 -- but allowed a season-high 13 hits and seven runs.
"He was really wild right down the middle of the plate," manager Buddy Bell said.
De La Rosa walked one batter -- only the second time since May 2 he permitted one or fewer free passes. The walk against Florida was an intentional pass and didn't factor in the scoring.
But plenty of hits certainly did.
"It just looked like it didn't really take a whole lot of energy to hit tonight," Bell said. "By that, I mean if the ball is down the middle of the plate, it doesn't take much effort to get to the ball."
The poor start continued a dismal five-start stretch that has yielded one quality start and four outings of five innings or fewer for De La Rosa. He has a 0-4 record and a 9.00 ERA in that span, allowing 25 earned runs in 25 innings. De La Rosa was unavailable for comment after the game, deflecting questions to catcher John Buck.
"I think he just tried to do a little too much and maybe got frustrated and try to overthrow the ball," Buck said. "He threw a couple of changeups a little harder than he normally threw in the past and they were cutting, and that usually means he was overthrowing. When you overthrow, your ball tends to kind of rise and I think that's all it was."
De La Rosa worked out of jams in the first two innings, allowing just two runs on four hits. He worked a perfect third and was nicked for a run in the fourth before falling apart in the fifth. Miguel Cabrera blasted a one-out, two-run homer, giving the Marlins a 5-2 lead. The homer didn't change anything -- it merely led to further problems.
"He is competitive and starts to muscle up, starts to overthrow and gets out of his delivery," Bell said. "That's when he has problems. That looked like that was the case even before the Cabrera home run. I don't think the Cabrera homer completely changed his delivery or whatever. I don't think he was in sync at any time the whole night, except for a couple short stretches."
After a popup, De La Rosa allowed the next four batters to reach base, yielding two more runs and short-circuiting the start. Bell dipped into his overused bullpen, bringing in Joel Peralta after Jason Wood, the No. 9 hitter, drove an RBI single to center.
De La Rosa's start was the fourth time in the last six games a starter worked fewer than five innings -- and it marked another dismal outing for three-fifths of the Royals' rotation.
Since May 22, De La Rosa, Scott Elarton and Odalis Perez have made 14 starts. In those outings, the trio has averaged less than five innings an outing, posting a 2-9 record and 9.09 ERA. On the other side, Gil Meche and Brian Bannister have pitched like co-aces, fashioning a 4-5 mark and 2.93 ERA in the same span.
"We needed to stay away from our bullpen again tonight," Bell said. "We couldn't do that, obviously. We have a good bullpen, but unless we are allowed to put them in the proper roles, it doesn't work the way you need it to work, so we need some innings [from our starters].
"The starting pitching is the most important part of our team, without a doubt," he added.
Down 9-3 after six, KC scored three times in the seventh. With none out and runners on first and second, Mark Teahen lined a shot right at second baseman Dan Uggla, who doubled David DeJesus off second base.
"That was my fault," DeJesus said. "I go over every situation in my mind before the ball is hit, but I just took off."
In the eighth, Buck hit his second of two solo homers, raising his season total to 12 and tying his single-season career-high. He remains one behind Victor Martinez for the lead among AL catchers. KC scored again in the ninth and had the winning run at first, but Teahen grounded into his third double play of the game and Sweeney grounded out, ending the game and giving De La Rosa the loss.
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.