KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s only a first impression, but left-hander Ryan Verdugo didn’t do much Tuesday night in his big-league debut to make the Royals feel better about that Jonathan Sánchez-for-Melky Cabrera deal.
Verdugo gave up six runs in 1 2/3 innings in a 9-6 loss to the Seattle Mariners at Kauffman Stadium. It was, in fact, depressingly Sanchenistic, and it made for another long night of playing catch-up.
And not quite getting there.
“Everyone is going to have one of those outings,” Verdugo said. “It just kind of sucked that it was the first one. I just need to slow things down a little more, maybe step off the mound here and there a few more times … I’ve got a lot of things to work on.”
Whether that work will be in the majors is uncertain since the Royals are expected to recall lefty Will Smith prior to the weekend. This was likely a one-game audition for Verdugo.
“His fastball was up,” manager Ned Yost said. “When he got hurt, it was on pitches up. He’s basically a two-pitch pitcher. He has a fastball and a decent change, but he did mix in some decent breaking balls today. It’s just … six runs in an inning and two-thirds.…”
It was Sánchez’s dreadful final start Monday – seven runs in 1 1/3 innings – that created Verdugo’s opportunity. The Royals needed a starter after using Everett Teaford, who had been slotted for Tuesday, for five innings in Monday’s 9-4 debacle.
The Royals reshuffled by summoning Verdugo from Triple-A Omaha in a series of moves that included designating Sánchez for assignment. They also recalled right-hander Vin Mazzaro (we’ll get to him) and optioned outfielder Jason Bourgeois.
That made for a certain symmetry because Verdugo arrived with Sánchez from the Giants for Cabrera in that now-infamous Nov. 7, 2011 deal. What’s that? Stick your symmetry?
Oh, if it were only that easy.
“When we have a start like we did (Monday) night,” Yost said, “and then back-to-back (bad) starts, it impacts you for three or four days. What we need (tonight) is for Bruce (Chen) to go out and put a stop to it and give us some length.”
Verdugo (0-1) gave up eight hits in addition to those six runs while walking two and striking out two in a 55-pitch performance. Then it was Mazzaro’s turn for 2 1/3 innings; he gave up more three runs.
Thereafter, Yost had no choice but to burn through more valuable bullpen pieces: Tim Collins for two innings; Kelvin Herrera, Aaron Crow and Greg Holland for one inning apiece.
The Mariners, remember, are one of just two American League teams still with a worse record than the Royals – and that’s largely due, before devouring Sánchez and Verdugo, to an often-absent attack.
“When you give yourself a little breathing room,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said, “it allows our young players to relax. We’ve had some guys struggling and working to find it, so it’s been nice to see them put some consistent days together.”
The Mariners built a 6-0 lead through two innings one night after leading 7-0 through two innings, which only underscored the Royals’ glaring need to upgrade their rotation.
“We just haven’t been able to muster up enough offense to match them,” left fielder Alex Gordon said. “We lose as a team. If they score seven, we need to score eight. If everybody has the mentality, we’ll be OK.”
Seattle starter Blake Beavan, just back from a month-long remedial stay at Triple-A Tacoma, gave up three runs in the third inning but little else before finding trouble in the seventh.
“It felt good for my first start back,” he said. “Besides the third inning, I felt like I made a lot of good pitches. My goal was just to keep us in the game and I thought I did a good job of that.”
Beavan (4-6) carried a 9-3 lead into seventh but exited after Jeff Francoeur led off with an infield single, and Salvy Perez followed with a double.
Charlie Furbush traded an out for a run when Chris Getz grounded to second, but Furbush exited because of tightness in his left triceps. Shawn Kelly replaced Furbush and served up a two-run pinch homer to Lorenzo Cain.
That closed the gap to 9-6 and prompted another pitching change – to Lucas Luetge, who allowed a single to Gordon before Alcides Escobar grounded into a double play.
The Royals got no closer.
“Down seven and down six in the first two innings,” third baseman Mike Moustakas admitted, “it kind of takes the wind out of your sails. But that’s part of the game. We had nine innings, and we got it close. We just didn’t finish it off.”
The Royals lost for the fourth time in five games since returning from the All-Star break and for the 12th time in 15 games since June 30. They are a season-worst 13 games under .500 at 38-51 and now trail first-place Chicago by 11½ games.
Verdugo actually retired the first two hitters before things turned sour.
Casper Wells looped a single into left, and Jesus Montero followed with a drive over the head of center fielder Jarrod Dyson – not an easy thing to do – for an RBI double.
Justin Smoak then drove an 88-mph fastball over the left-field wall for a two-run homer and a 3-0 lead.
“I got those two outs decently quick,” Verdugo said, “and I tried to take a deep breath and it just didn’t work too well. The game is a lot different up here. It’s quicker. I didn’t make quality pitches when I needed to. I left the ball up a little bit and paid for it.”
It got no better in the second inning.
One-out singles by Dustin Ackley and Ichiro Suzuki put runners at first and third, but Verdugo had a chance to escape undamaged after striking out Wells.
But Montero pulled an RBI single through the left side before a walk to Smoak loaded the bases. Kyle Seager then yanked a two-run double to right for a 6-0 lead before Yost went to Mazzaro.
The Royals clawed back with three runs in the third, but Seattle answered with three in the fifth against Mazzaro. Too much.
“We scored six runs,” Yost said. “On most nights, that’s enough to win. I’m optimistic with the way we’re swinging the bats right now. If we can get the starting pitching settled down, I think we’ll be OK.”