KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If the goal this weekend at Kauffman Stadium is to provide a pleasant time for those rolling red waves engulfing the stands … fine. Yep, things are going just fine.
The Royals spewed up another dud Saturday in an 8-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in front of a near-sellout of 37,240 that included acres of red. Dud as defined by a lethal mix of ineffective pitching, bad defense and scant hitting.
“It’s been a tough stretch these last two games,” left fielder Alex Gordon said. “Their offense has been firing on all cylinders, and our offense hasn’t been able to keep up. It’s a big game (today). You don’t want to get swept at home – especially by the Cardinals.”
Saturday’s loss wasn’t as bad as Friday’s series opener – when the Royals trailed by nine runs in the second inning en route to an 11-4 setback – but it was bad enough.
The Cardinals, behind a balanced attack, built a 5-0 lead by scoring once in the third, three times in the fifth and once in the sixth. When the Royals scratched back two runs in their sixth, Allen Craig countered with a two-run homer in the seventh.
“There was way more red than there was blue (in the stands),” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. “I realize that some of the blue may have left. But even early on, you hear `Let’s go, Cardinals.’”
Royals starter Luis Mendoza, 2-4, found trouble, as usually happens, when facing hitters for a third time. He gave up one run through the first four innings before failing to survive a three-run fifth.
“Two times through the lineup,” manager Ned Yost said, “and (his stuff) starts to degrade a little bit on him. It was the case again today.”
Check the numbers: Opposing hitters are batting .232 (30 for 129) on Mendoza’s first two times through the lineup in his starts – and .548 (17 for 31) thereafter. (There’s a reason the Royals view him as a better fit as a long reliever.)
“Maybe they make adjustments to my sinker,” he offered. “Maybe I need to mix it up a little bit more. But I try to stay aggressive all of the time and to pitch inside and get some ground balls.”
That form held true – although, on this occasion, it wasn’t entirely Mendoza’s fault.
The Cardinals fueled their three-run fifth by capitalizing on the Royals’ inability to turn two grounders into outs. One scooted past an immobile Yuniesky Betancourt at second base for a single; the other ate up third baseman Mike Moustakas for a single.
The final damage against Mendoza was four runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings.
Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright was one strike from a well-pitched victory – one run in seven innings – last Sunday over the Royals in St. Louis. That turned into a no-decision when Billy Butler hit a two-out homer in the ninth against closer Jason Motte.
The Royals won that game 5-3 in 15 innings.
No escape this time.
Wainwright, 6-7, limited the Royals to two runs and six hits this time over seven innings and got the decision when Mitchell Boggs and Motte closed out the victory.
“I didn’t really have great stuff by any means,” Wainwright said, “but I just tried to mix and match and locate and keep them off balance.”
Matt Holliday continued his rampage against the Royals by going four for five, which makes him 13 for 18 in his last four games in the I-70 Series.
“We play the Royals every year twice,” he said. “You’re a little more familiar with these guys than you are the other American League teams.”
Holliday contributed three singles and a double to the 16-hit St. Louis attack, including RBI singles in the third and fifth against Mendoza. His leadoff double in the seventh preceded Craig’s homer against Greg Holland.
Holliday’s leadoff single in the ninth, against Aaron Crow, led to the game’s final run.
“I don’t know what we can try new,” Yost said. “We try to get him on breaking balls, and he hits the curveball. We try to stay hard on him with fastballs, and he hits the fastball. We’ve got to make a pitch in a good location and hope he hits it at somebody.”
The Royals trailed 5-0 before finally breaking through in the sixth against Wainwright on an RBI triple from Alex Gordon.
The Royals got another run on Betancourt’s grounder to third. And…
The Cardinals got those runs back immediately on Craig’s no-doubt, 413-foot bomb to left the following inning on a full-count offering from Holland. The Royals got nothing more over the final three innings.
“You’ve got to give some credit to Wainwright,” Yost said. “He threw the ball pretty darn well.”