Royals can't solve road woes against Rangers
Offense strikes early, but not enough in four-game sweep
ARLINGTON -- Their starting pitcher was sick as a dog, they completely missed an appeal play and they were skunked in Texas. The Royals could have used a mother's love on Mother's Day.
The Texas Rangers completed a four-game sweep on Sunday, 6-4, extending the Royals' losing skid to five games and giving them a 3-8 road trip. They have Monday off to contemplate their fate.
"It was a real bad road trip," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "If you'd have told me at this point in time we'd be 10 games below .500 I'd never would have believed it."
But there they are, 11-21 and last in the American League Central. They've lost 10-of-13 games since winning back-to-back games on April 25-26 for the only time this season.
As the Royals filed quietly out of the visitors' clubhouse after making most of 25,476 fans happy at Rangers Ballpark, veteran catcher Jason Kendall addressed the situation.
"There's no panic -- zero," Kendall said. "We know we're going to turn it around. We haven't clicked. We haven't pitched well and hit well. We're either hitting and not pitching or pitching and not hitting, we just haven't put it together."
Let's look at the latest loss a bit more closely.
Royals starter Luke Hochevar issued two walks in the first two innings but escaped damage. Then, with two more walks and a hit batter in the third inning, everything came unhinged.
Mitch Maier had given Hochevar a 2-0 lead with a two-run double but now the Rangers pushed four runs across. But Hochevar was ailing.
"Sick as a dog. He was throwing up in the bullpen during his warmup," Hillman said. "We tried to get as much fluids in him as we could. He was scuffling. He didn't make any excuses, he still wanted to start but the fact is he was pretty sick. He couldn't keep anything down. He's got a little bug."
Hillman let him try it but it didn't go well in the third. The Rangers had one run in with one out and had runners at first and third. Vladimir Guerrero hit a fly ball to short left field which Scott Podsednik gathered in and threw to the plate. The ball skipped past Kendall and Elvis Andrus scored for a 2-2 tie.
Meantime, the Royals failed to notice that Josh Hamilton, the runner at first base, had neglected to return to tag up after the catch. He just sort of wandered off and first-base umpire Jeff Kellogg certainly noticed.
"He didn't wander off, he went about halfway," Kellogg said.
And then Hamilton just jogged over to second base. The Royals, had any of them seen the failure to tag-up, could have called for an appeal and Hamilton undoubtedly would have been called out. But they didn't -- all eyes were on the play at home.
"More often than not, you pick it up from the dugout but when there's going to be a play at home plate, you follow the play at home plate," Hillman said.
If the appeal had been made, Hamilton would have been the third out. The run still would have been allowed, third-base umpire Mark Carlson explained, because it was an appeal and not a continuous play.
Even so, the inning would have been over and the Rangers would not have the chance to add two runs to their total on David Murphy's double which ended the queasy Hochevar's outing.
"Quite honestly you hope somebody picks it up on the field because typically, even though you try to see the whole field on situations like that, inevitably you miss things," Hillman said. "And that's a bad one to miss."
First baseman Billy Butler, like the other Royals, was following the play at home.
"I had no clue," Butler said. "I didn't see it. Obviously I'm embarrassed about it. I'd like to tell you I was watching it but I was watching the play in front of me and I just didn't pick up on it. That's my priority so put it on me."
The Royals came back for a 4-4 tie in the fourth with Mike Aviles leading off the inning with a home run against right-hander Scott Feldman. Maier singled, took second on a wild pitch and got home on Yuniesky Betancourt's double.
"I felt like we were going to come back and win the thing," Aviles said. "At no point did I ever think we didn't have a chance."
Yet the Royals could get nothing done in the last five innings against the Rangers' bullpen. The Rangers broke the tie in the fifth against reliever Brad Thompson on Max Ramirez's RBI double. They added a sixth run in the eighth against Robinson Tejeda.
And the Royals headed home to ponder things for a day before opening a three-game series against Cleveland.
"We need to reflect on just how bad this road trip was," Hillman said. "We need to get this thing going, we need to right it soon."
Hillman zeroed in one cause: the plethora of bases on balls given out by the pitching staff -- 139 in 32 games.
"You can point to a lot of things but the simple thing is we're leading the American League in walks," he said. "If you had to point to one thing, we're walking too many guys."
Latest example: Two walks by Hochevar filled the bases with no outs and led to the Rangers' four runs.
End result: Another loss.
Obvious conclusion: "We've got to turn it around and turn it around quick," Kendall said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.