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Royals slip back to .500 with 7-2 loss to Nationals

  • Kansas City Star
  • Published Saturday, August 24, 2013, at 9:01 p.m.

— A change in uniforms Saturday night failed to pull the Royals out of their disastrous August collapse as their skid hit seven in a 7-2 loss to the Washington Nationals at Kauffman Stadium.

In a salute to the Negro Leagues, the Royals donned replica uniforms of the 1942 Monarchs but still maintained their current dream-crushing form while falling back to .500.

“Nobody likes to be in a seven-game losing streak after we were playing so well,” left fielder Alex Gordon said. “It’s frustrating, but we need to come out here and keep playing, keep grinding and keep trying to get victories.”

What else can they do? Well.…

Right-hander Wade Davis turned in another performance that is sure to heighten questions as to why he remains in the rotation: seven runs and eight hits in six innings. He is now 6-10 with a 5.67 ERA.

Davis yielded a quick run in the first inning and, after the Royals pulled even in the third, mucked his way through a four-run fourth that included key two-out hits by two players battling the (.200) Mendoza Line.

“It’s been incredibly inconsistent,” said Davis, who has six quality starts in his last 12 outings. “It’s frustrating, and I’m really upset about it right now. But I’m going to come back tomorrow and keep getting better.”

Ian Desmond’s two-run homer in the sixth pushed the Nationals’ lead to 7-1 — more than enough for Jordan Zimmermann, who improved to 15-7 by limiting the Royals to two runs and eight hits in 7 2/3 innings.

“I had four pitches going,” Zimmermann said, “and when I have that going, it’s usually a fun night to be out there. The offense got some runs early and allowed me to settle in.”

Fernando Abad replaced Zimmermann, with runners at first and third, and gave up an RBI single to Mike Moustakas before ending the inning. Tyler Clippard closed out the victory with a scoreless ninth.

Manager Ned Yost typically declines comment in post-game remarks when asked about shifting personnel roles — in this case, whether Davis’ position in the rotation was at risk.

“It’s hard to answer questions like that when you just lose a game 7-2, because you’ve got real high emotions going on,” he said. “Those are questions that need to be well thought out.”

Even so, Yost did acknowledge Davis’ status in the rotation as a issue that merited consideration: “Yes, definitely. In all fairness, I think it is.”

There’s also this: It was less than two weeks ago that the Royals, after winning 19 of 24, stood 62-54 and within four games of the American League’s second wild-card berth.

Postseason possibilities beckoned here in the Heartland for the first time in a decade. Since then, it’s been a quick and utterly complete fall into virtual irrelevancy. Check the math:

The Royals awake Sunday morning at 64-64 after losing 10 of their last 12. They are 11 1/2 games behind first-place Detroit in the AL Central Division and eight games behind Oakland for that last wild-card spot.

And they’ve done it while showing the sort of snap generally associated with a dated mock turtleneck. The goal now, with 34 games left, might be to rebound sufficiently to attain a winning record for the first time in a decade.

“What’s going to happen is we’re going to get some hits and win a game,” Yost said. “Then we’re going to get on a roll again.… This team has another good run in it.”

The script, at least, changed Saturday night for the 28,023 in attendance.

After blowing a three-run lead Thursday night in a 4-3 loss to the White Sox, and a six-run lead Friday night in an 11-10 loss to the Nationals, the Royals never held a lead Saturday.

Washington opened the game with successive singles by Denard Span, Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper.

That produced one run, and Davis was saved further damage when Gordon thwarted Zimmerman’s bid for a double. It was Gordon’s league-leading outfield 11th assist.

A nifty second-short-first double play started by second baseman Emilio Bonifacio on Wilson Ramos’ grounder up the middle ended the inning. Shortstop Alcides Escobar made a spinning throw for the final out.

So it could have been a lot worse.

The Royals pulled even in third inning after Escobar led off with a single and went to second on Bonifacio’s one-out infield single to deep short. Eric Hosmer then drove an RBI single into center.

The chance for a bigger inning ended when Billy Butler grounded into his league-leading 20th double play.

The tie didn’t last.

Davis opened the Washington fourth by walking Zimmerman, who moved to third on Harper’s single to right. Ramos delivered the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly to deep right.

Harper took second on the sac fly which, after Desmond flied out, prompted an intentional walk to Adam LaRoche to get to .202-hitting Tyler Moore.

And the game, at that point, turned.

Moore drove an RBI double over Gordon’s head. When .188-hitting Chad Tracy followed by chipping a two-run single into left, the Nationals led 5-1.

“I made mistakes over the plate,” Davis said. “I made a couple of mistakes with two strikes when I got ahead of guys. You can’t do that.”

The Nationals extended their lead to 7-1 on Desmond’s two-run homer in the sixth, which followed a leadoff single by Ramos. At that point, only the wave could make this worse. That came two innings later.

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