ST. LOUIS — Right now, it seems the Royals might never win again. OK, for a while now, but particularly after Wednesday’s numbing 5-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
Daniel Descalso’s two-run pinch single with two outs in the eighth inning capped a four-run hammer blow against Aaron Crow that sent the Royals to their eighth straight loss overall and their 19th in 23 games.
It also dropped them into undisputed possession of last place in the American League Central Division. And of all the losses over this wretched streak, none might be harder to swallow than this one.
The Royals built a 2-0 lead for Luis Mendoza, who contributed a two-out RBI single to the cause. J.C. Gutierrez protected a 2-1 lead in the seventh, and Crow inherited a 3-1 lead to start the eighth.
And, boy, did things go wrong in a hurry.
Crow (0-1) started by serving up a leadoff homer to Carlos Beltran. After Matt Holliday struck out, Allen Craig pulled a single through the left side.
It almost seemed possible to see it slipping away at that point.
Yadier Molina lined a single to left that moved Craig to second before David Freese lined a game-tying RBI single to left. Craig beat the throw home from Alex Gordon, while the runners moved to second and third.
An intentional walk to John Jay loaded the bases for Pete Kozma, who took a third strike.
Descalso batted for reliever Randy Choate (1-0) and punched a two-run single into center...and that was that. Or it was when Edward Mujica closed out the ninth for his third save in three days against the Royals.
Mendoza settled for a no-decision after holding the Cardinals to one run and six hits in 5 2/3innings. Tim Collins got the final out in the sixth before Gutierrez pitched a scoreless seventh.
The Royals pushed their lead to 3-1 in the eighth against Seth Maness when Mike Moustakas and David Lough reached with one out on seeing-eye singles, which put runners at first and third.
George Kottaras’ slow grounder to third produced the run. A big run, it seemed at the time.
St. Louis starter Lance Lynn held the Royals to two runs and eight hits in seven innings.
The I-70 Series concludes Thursday night here at Busch before the Royals head to Texas for a three-game weekend series.
Mendoza retired the Cardinals in order in the first — a notable improvement since James Shields and Ervin Santana each served up two-run homers in the first inning of the two previous games.
St. Louis did mount a threat in the second when Craig and Molina opened with singles, but Mendoza got Freese to ground into a double play and retied John Jay on a grounder to first.
Lynn rolled through the first three innings in order while permitting just one ball to leave the infield. Gordon broke the string with a leadoff single in the fourth through the right side.
The Royals then caught a break when Alcides Escobar’s end-of-the-bat grounder squirted through Craig at first for a double. Lorenzo Cain’s fly to right was just deep enough to score Gordon for a 1-0 lead.
Escobar moved to third on Beltran’s throw to the plate, which prompted the Cardinals to shorten their infield. It was unnecessary; Lynn struck out Billy Butler on three pitches.
The Royals settled for one run — after having runners at second and third with no outs -- when Moustakas hit a dribbler in front of the plate.
Craig yanked a one-out double to left later in the inning and tried to score on Molina’s single to right, but David Lough made a strong throw to the plate to preserve the lead.
Molina took second on the throw and, after Freese worked back from 1-2 for a walk, Jay grounded out to first.
Lough followed up his throw by starting the fifth with a triple to right. Again, the Cardinals shortened their infield. Again, they didn’t have to. Kottaras fouled out to third, and Chris Getz popped to short.
That left it up to Mendoza, who promptly lined a first-pitch fastball over Carpenter’s head at second for an RBI single and a 2-0 lead.
It was Mendoza’s first career hit, in six at-bats, and the first RBI by a Royals pitcher since Vin Mazzaro on June 9, 2012, in a 5-3 loss at Pittsburgh.
The two-run lead also matched the Royals’ biggest margin over their eight-game skid.
What Mendoza needed then was a shutdown inning — and he got it despite a one-out walk to Lynn and the failure by Getz to turn a double-play grounder into a double play.
The St. Louis sixth, however, started with a no-doubt Holliday homer; 430 feet to the left of dead center on a 3-1 fastball. Mendoza retired the next two hitters but a two-out walk to Freese triggered a bullpen move.
Collins replaced Mendoza and struck out Jay.
The Royals threatened in the seventh when Gordon pulled a double into the right-field corner, his third hit, and went to third on Escobar’s infield single.
Lynn stranded both runners when Beltran made a sliding catch on Cain’s sinking liner at the right-field line.