Royals struggle in 11th straight defeat
Offense stays quiet against Twins as Hochevar scuffles
KANSAS CITY -- And the countdown has reached 11. With the emphasis on down.
Minnesota right-hander Kevin Slowey stumped the Royals as the Twins completed a three-game sweep, 5-1, on Thursday night in front of 12,336 fans at Kauffman Stadium. The loss extended the Royals' skid to 11 games, matching the fourth-longest losing streak in franchise history.
This was more of a normal garden-variety loss. The Twins won the first two games in extra-inning thrillers, 4-3 and 9-8. There was no such suspense this time.
"I get nervous in this ballpark," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire admitted. "There's a lot of crazy things the first two games we've seen happen. I always get nervous here late in the ballgame. They never quit playing here. I know it's a struggle for them right now but you never know what's going to happen."
Just imagine. Twelve days ago, the Royals had just won two of three games from a tough Marlins team in Florida. They'd won six of seven games, and they were just one game under .500.
Life was grand. Now they've lost 11 straight.
"I didn't think this was going to happen," said the Royals' David DeJesus. "We've got too many good players on our team right now. But it's happening. We've just got to come tomorrow and be ready to play."
The 11-game skid, a drought previously seen in 1986 and in 2006, began with a no-hitter thrown by Jon Lester at Boston. Oh, that no-no.
"It's not that," DeJesus said. "It had nothing to do with it. It's just one game. We're just in a tough patch right now. We've just got to keep mentally strong and keep relying on each other to get through this -- it's going to happen."
Hardly anything was happening against Slowey, who got his first career complete game by throwing strikes (101 pitches, 74 strikes). He limited the Royals to four singles through the eighth inning and did not walk a batter.
"You look up there in the second inning and the guy's got 12 pitches and five outs, you're sitting there scratching your head," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "Then you've got to watch nine innings of a complete game. Thankfully it wasn't a shutout."
The Royals finally ruined Slowey's shutout scheme with a run in the ninth as DeJesus doubled and scored on Alex Gordon's double.
Leading up to DeJesus' hit, Slowey had retired 11 straight batters.
"He was under control, hitting his spots," Gordon said. "He was coming after us and throwing strikes. You've got to give him credit, he was painting inside and outside."
Royals rookie right-hander Luke Hochevar was pulled in the sixth inning after the Twins went ahead 3-0. Reliever Ron Mahay promptly gave up a two-run single to Carlos Gomez and the Royals trailed by five.
While Slowey feasted, Hochevar starved. In eight starts, the Royals have provided him with a grand total of 11 runs. That's existing on the poverty level.
"You could draw our starters out of a hat -- and throw out maybe one or two starts -- and just because of the overall lack of offensive production, that really could apply to any of those guys," Hillman said.
"We're not scoring a lot of runs and we know that."
Yeah, they're still last in the American League with 193 runs. Surely that must have an effect on the Royals' pitchers as they take the mound night after night.
"There's no doubt," Hillman said. "I'd never try to skirt that question and dance around it. There's no doubt that plays into it, no doubt at all. Your starting pitcher goes out there and feels like he's got to be darn near perfect."
And when Hochevar has gone to the mound in his last four starts, all four opposing pitchers have pitched complete-game victories -- Baltimore's Daniel Cabrera, No-Hit Lester, Toronto's Jesse Litsch and now Slowey.
The Royals, in those four losses, have scored just two runs.
The arrival of a new bat, shortstop Mike Aviles, did not help. In his Major League debut, Aviles was hitless in three at-bats. He had a relatively easy time in the field.
"Most of the time when you put somebody in a new defensive position or bring a guy up, the ball has a tendency to find them and find them with regularity," Hillman said. "I was shocked that didn't happen."
What did happen was another loss, No. 11 in the losing streak. The Royals' record for most consecutive losses is 19 in 2005. The only other longer skids: 13 games in 2006 and 12 in 1997.
"We've just got to get a win," DeJesus said. "I think a win will cure everything right now."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.