05/30/07 10:03 PM ET
Notes: Royals not safe at home
At current pace, would have fewest home wins since '98
By Conor Nicholl / MLB.com
KANSAS CITY -- The brunt of KC's struggles this season have come at a very unusual place: Kauffman Stadium. Every one of the losses of the current six-game skid were at home and the Royals hold the Majors' worst overall home record at 9-20.
"We have always struggled since I have been here and normally, teams that don't have great records always seem to struggle on the road more than at home," manager Buddy Bell said.
During the last decade, KC has generally played much better at home than on the road. The last time the Royals finished with a better road split was 2003, when they finished 43-39 away from Kauffman Stadium. No KC squad has won fewer than 30 games at home since the 1998 squad finished 29-51. If the 2007 team continues its current pace, it will finish with 25 home victories.
The main problems have come in the last two homestands. After starting 6-9 at Kauffman, KC has struggled mightily, compiling a 3-11 record, including a 2-6 mark on the current nine-game homestand.
Starting pitching, the team's strength in the first six weeks, has a double-digit ERA in the last six games. Coupled with the bullpen's struggles on the April homestands, KC has the American League's worst home ERA (5.69), but the fourth-best on the road (3.83).
"The pitchers have pitched well up here up until this last homestand," Bell said.
Offensively, the Royals are averaging 3.79 runs at Kauffman (historically considered a hitters' ballpark) versus 4.21 on the road. Bell said the team could be taking longer swings at home.
"Just trying to hit it longer and farther, I think that is part of it," he said. "I think that is being part of it. Trying to hit the ball too hard. You just need to keep swinging through it. Hopefully, you can get a couple of hits and get your confidence."
KC has faced some of the best pitchers in the American League at Kauffman, including Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Fausto Carmona, Dan Haren, Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman and Felix Hernandez.
"We have some tough matchups and when we are not swinging the bats all that well, it makes it that much tougher," Bell said.
The team is actually hitting better at home (.714 on-base plus slugging percentage) versus the road (.696 OPS), but KC is averaging slightly more hits per game on the road -- and creating more rallies. For a team that doesn't have much power or speed, those rallies are critical to scoring runs.
"We have to have guys hot at the same time," Bell said. "I think that is why we have struggled early in the game and one of the reasons why we haven't put runs on the board. When we score runs, we seem to score them in bunches. We don't have one run here and two runs here. It just seems like we will score four or five in one inning and a lot of that is has to do with not stringing hits together on a consistent basis."
Soria not sore: Reliever Joakim Soria threw about 30 pitches in the bullpen Wednesday and reported no pain in his right shoulder.
"I feel good. No pain -- nothing," he said.
Soria, put on the disabled list because of shoulder inflammation, will throw again Friday at Tampa Bay.
Streak Numbers: After an impressive 8-2 stretch, the Royals have posted some poor numbers during the current six-game losing streak. Offensively, the team is batting .193 with 13 runs scored. The three hits Tuesday tied a season-low, joining the 7-1 loss in the second game of the season to Josh Beckett and the Red Sox. Pitching-wise, the team hasn't enjoyed a quality start in the losing streak. Only Brian Bannister has more than six innings during the stretch.
"I think it is disappointing and hopefully it is a hiccup," Mark Grudzielanek said. "We definitely felt like a few weeks ago we were playing better ball and were headed in the right direction. To have something like this happen, it's tough. With the youth that we have on this team, for them to bounce back and get things rolling and try to be as consistent as possible, it's hard, very hard."
Bunts: Esteban German batted leadoff and started at third base Wednesday against Orioles' starter Erik Bedard. German is hitting .317 against left-handers this season, the best average by any Royal currently on the roster. He replaced left-handed hitting Alex Gordon, batting .175 against lefties. ... Brandon Duckworth will end home on the off-day Thursday to see his wife and his new-born daughter, Sophia. He will join the team for the opener against Tampa Bay on Friday.... Leo Nunez, on the 60-day DL with a right wrist fracture, worked one inning of one-run ball in his first rehab appearance for Double-A Wichita on Tuesday night. ... Ryan Shealy is batting .378 (17-for-45) since his return from the disabled list. ... David Riske is one of only two American League pitchers to throw more 10 innings in May and not allow an earned run. The Yankees' Brian Bruney is the other. ... John Bale (shoulder stiffness) made his second rehab appearance Wednesday night for Triple-A Omaha. He tossed eight pitches, seven for strikes and struck out one over one innings. In two rehab appearances covering two innings, Bale has tossed 15 pitches and has faced the minimum six batters.
O'Neil seat: Nancy Longergan of Kansas City, Mo., is sitting in Buck O'Neil's seat for Wednesday's game. Eight years ago, Longergan underwent treatment for Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and returned after missing just two days of school. She has taught school for more than 18 years.
Royals Rundown: Triple-A Omaha lost, 7-5, to Tacoma. Joey Gathright enjoyed another strong offensive game with two hits, two runs and three stolen bases. He leads the PCL with 17 steals. ... Double-A Wichita won, 7-5, over Frisco. ... Former No. 1 draft pick Mike Stodolka hit a grand slam and Luke Hochevar, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, allowed just one earned run in 6 2/3 innings. He struck out eight. ... Class-A Wilmington won, 4-1, behind another huge performance from Rowdy Hardy. Mario Lisson had three hits, two RBI and two runs scored. ... Class-A Burlington won, 6-4, over Wisconsin. Harold Mozingo pitched five innings of three-run ball for the victory.
Player of the day: It's hard to upstage a terrific performance from Hochevar, but Hardy did. The undrafted pitcher continued his dazzling season, sending down 16 consecutive batters at one point. Displaying excellent command with a below average fastball, curve and changeup, Hardy is 6-0 with a Carolina League-best 1.21 ERA. He's permitted more than one run in an outing just once this season.
Coming up: After an off-day Thursday, Kansas City heads to Tampa Bay for a four-game set. Brian Bannister (0-3, 4.54 ERA) has pitched well, but is still searching for his first win as a Royal. Ace Scott Kazmir (3-2, 3.95) goes for the Devil Rays. First pitch is set for 6:10 p.m. CT.
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.