Royals held in check by Cards
Six-game winning streak ends vs. intrastate rival
KANSAS CITY -- The Royals had everything right for so long. They had defense that rarely erred, quality pitching from the bullpen and starters, and to top it off, a good supply of two-on, two-out, two-strike hits.
They had all that in their six-game winning streak, but almost none of it in Saturday night's 5-1 loss to St. Louis. It really was that simple.
"Sometimes that happens," shortstop Mike Aviles said. "Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Tonight was just our night to lose."
There hadn't been many nights like this for the Royals in a while. Kansas City had won 12 of its past 14 games, and four straight against St. Louis. But with Cards starter Mitchell Boggs fooling Royals hitters most of the game and a costly error giving the Cardinals momentum, all of the good fortune turned the other way in front of 37,537 fans at Kauffman Stadium -- the largest crowd of the season.
The error came down to Aviles' grip. He thought he had more time than he did to complete what would've been an inning-ending double play in the fourth.
He caught the throw from second baseman Mark Grudzielanek with his fingers in a two-seam grip. Not good. Two-seam throws tend to sink, and that's exactly what happened. Aaron Miles, who was on second, scored on the overthrow, giving the Cards a 1-0 lead.
"It was just a bad play all around on my part," Aviles said.
On Friday, early defensive plays by Mark Teahen and John Buck gave the Royals momentum. Aviles' miscue did the opposite on Saturday.
Kyle Davies kept the Royals in it after the error, but he made a mistake of his own in the sixth. The inning was almost over -- with two outs, Skip Schumaker on first and Rick Ankiel at the plate. Davies said he started worrying about Schumaker. It cost him.
Ankiel ripped a fastball for a two-run homer, giving the Cardinals a 4-0 lead.
"I fell behind a couple of guys," Davies said, "but for the most part, it was that pitch I'd like to have back."
Davies gave up five runs, three earned, in 6 1/3 innings. It was a far better performance than his last start, Sunday's 11-10 victory against San Francisco, when Davies didn't even make it out of the second inning.
Somehow, Davies didn't take the loss that time. He did on Saturday, however, largely because of the errors and a lack of run support. Kansas City pushed its only run across in the seventh on a double by Ross Gload. The Royals tried for two on the play, but catcher Miguel Olivo was gunned down at the plate, trying to score from first.
"When you're behind like that," manager Trey Hillman said, "you don't want to be quite that aggressive, but that's a tough call and a tough job."
All the mistakes were compounded by the fact that Boggs was at his best. The rookie is turning into the Cardinals' lucky charm. He's been a spot starter four times this season, and St. Louis has won all four games. This one was his best yet. He stopped the Royals on several important at-bats.
There was the first: Jose Guillen was up with runners on first and second and two outs, and Boggs forced him into a double play. The second: Two runners on again, and Boggs got Joey Gathright to ground out. And while he finally gave up that run in the seventh, Boggs lasted six-plus innings, allowing just that one run and striking out six.
"You've got to tip your hat to the pitcher every once in a while," Aviles said. "He pitched a great game, hit his spots. When he needed to, he came up big."
But because of their midseason hot streak, perspective is starting to matter for the Royals. Yes, it was a loss and one full of mistakes, but Kansas City has still won 12 of its last 15 games and Sunday presents an opportunity to take two out of three from St. Louis, a good one at that. Brian Bannister is pitching -- for a day game.
"Anytime you get a loss, it's upsetting because you don't want to lose," Aviles said. "I wouldn't shrug it off that easy, but we've been playing well lately."
Mark Dent is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.