ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Royals, had they been at their best Wednesday, faced a daunting challenge in Angels ace Jered Weaver. Supporting evidence to come below but, really, it’s irrelevant.
This was far from the Royals’ best.
This was a fiasco — at least until it no longer mattered. Sure, that 11-6 final score is bad enough, but it’s like a snapshot of a train wreck after everything stops moving and the noise quiets.
“All around, today was not a good day,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “That’s a good team, and you can’t come out playing like that. They’ll capitalize on your mistakes. That’s what they did today.”
Boy, did they.
The Royals fell into an eight-run hole in the early innings through a combination of disturbing lapses and general ineptitude that, even in their fast-sliding state, will be tough to top over the season’s remaining 65 games.
“We don’t play sloppy very often,” manager Ned Yost said, “but we did today in the first two innings. I hate (games like this). Everybody hates them. The fans don’t like them. We don’t like them.
“But over the course of 162 games, you’re bound to have a few of them. We don’t have very many of them, but we had one today.”
Let’s start with that supporting evidence on Weaver.
He entered the game at 12-1 with a 2.20 ERA, which included a 7-0 record and a 0.67 ERA in eight home starts. He also had permitted just two runs in his five previous starts against the Royals over a span of 362/3 innings.
Soooo … this one effectively ended when the Angels scored three runs in the first inning against Royals starter Luke Hochevar, whose day began with double, single, single, RBI grounder and double.
“That was bad,” Hochevar said. “The biggest thing today was my breaking balls were just hanging up. I had some guys 0-2 and just left breaking balls up.”
The Angels scored three more runs in a second inning that included two infield errors and several head-scratching mental mistakes that stirred memories from the mid-2000s. LA stretched its lead to 8-0 in the fourth on a homer by Bobby Wilson.
Hochevar followed Wilson’s homer by hitting Mike Trout with a 3-0 fastball. Umpire Bob Davidson quickly ejected Hochevar, whose final line showed eight runs and nine hits in three-plus innings.
“It was day when he didn’t have his good stuff,” Yost said, “and they were on him. They were on him all day.”
Everything stabilized, more or less, after Hochevar’s departure, although that’s not to suggest the early innings were a one-man, stables-mucking-up mess. Lots of hoofprints here; all with the KC brand.
“It’s just not very good right now,” right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. “We’ve got to get better, and I’ll be the first one to say it starts with me. The first two innings were really rough, when you’re facing a guy like Weaver, to get behind 6-0.”
Here’s the thing: Weaver, 13-1, wasn’t particularly sharp in laboring through 101 pitches before exiting after five innings. He gave up two runs — both on a two-out drive by Billy Butler that caromed off the left-field foul pole in the fifth inning.
Jason Isringhausen and LaTroy Hawkins each worked one scoreless inning before Francoeur hit a three-run homer in the eighth against Scott Downs. That provided a much-needed boost for a slumping Francoeur and made the box score easier to stomach.
Any comeback stirrings ended later in the inning when Trout and Torii Hunter hit back-to-back homers against Louis Coleman in a three-run burst.
Kevin Jepsen recorded the final out in the eighth before Ernesto Frieri coughed up one run in the ninth before closing out Weaver’s victory. The Royals lost for the 17th time in 23 games and dropped back to 15 games under .500 at 41-56.
“We’re better than what we’re showing,” Francoeur insisted. “We’ve got to get to Seattle and play better.”
The Angels put Hochevar, 6-9, in immediate trouble when Trout led off the bottom of the first with a hustle double before going to third on Hunter’s bloop single into center.
A wild pitch on a swinging strike by Mark Trumbo scored Trout and moved Hunter to third. Trumbo then yanked an 0-2 pitch through the left side for a single. Hunter stopped at third but scored on Kendry Morales’ slow grounder to first for a 2-0 lead.
Alberto Callaspo’s double into the left-center gap added another run.
The LA second began with shortstop Alcides Escobar coming up empty on a backhand swipe of Peter Bourjos’ grounder. It was scored a single and, OK, Bourjos is fast. Whatever, it really went downhill from there.
Hosmer mishandled Wilson’s sacrifice bunt, saying: “I bobbled it on the exchange. It just popped up in the air.” The result was an error that put runners on first and second.
Third baseman Mike Moustakas then made a fine pickup on Trout’s sharp grounder, touched third for the force but threw across the diamond in an attempt to get Trout rather than go to second.
Now, Trout runs like lightning, and Wilson runs like a catcher, but the bigger problem was Moustakas low-hopped the throw, which got past Hosmer for another error. That put runners on second and third.
Hunter served a single into left that scored two runs and, when Alex Gordon threw home in an unsuccessful attempt to nab lightning, Hunter went to second. A wild pitch moved Hunter to third before Trumbo hit a hopper back to the mound.
Hochevar never looked Hunter back to third while trotting toward first and flipping the ball to Hosmer for the out. The second out. Hunter scored, and the Angels led 6-0. Hochevar’s ensuing stare into the crowd screamed belated awareness.
“That was bad mental error on my part,” Hochevar said, “All around, it was just bad.”