KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The decisive pitch in Sunday’s 2-1 Royals loss, their fourth in a row, was an 86-mph curveball tumbling out of Yordano Ventura’s right hand. The pitch curved and bent up in the strike zone, near the waist of Seattle catcher Mike Zunino. An antagonist all weekend at Kauffman Stadium, Zunino played his role with aplomb on Sunday, crushing a solo home run to put the Mariners ahead in the seventh.
There Seattle remained for the duration of the game, exiting this park with a sweep. On Sunday they spoiled a fine effort from Ventura. He fanned six across seven innings.
But his teammates resembled fodder at the hands of Seattle lefty Roenis Elias. The Royals (39-36) could not collect an extra-base hit, and fell once more. They have scored only one run in three of these four defeats.
The lineup’s vanishing act has occurred at an unfortunate time. The Dodgers jet into town this week, and will roll out a pair of aces, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, during the first two games.
A 10-game winning streak snapped on Thursday, and a new, more odious streak began. The Royals released their hold on first place in the American League Central. To watch the scoreboard in June is a heedless waste of energy, but the descent has still stunted the progress of this club.
Flying high so recently, the offense plunged back into the habits thought eradicated since Dale Sveum took over as hitting coach. The first inning felt instructive: Lorenzo Cain – finally moved into the leadoff spot, if only via injury to Nori Aoki – coaxed a six-pitch walk. The subsequent trio of Omar Infante, Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler saw four pitches combined. All flied out.
In the second inning, the Royals captured their first lead of this series. Alex Gordon generated the run. He singled by lining a fastball into right. After a single by Salvador Perez, Gordon showed little fear for the arm of center fielder James Jones. He took third on a flyout by Danny Valencia, and scored on an even shallower flyball struck by Justin Maxwell.
The advantage lasted all of three innings. In his first at-bat, Willie Bloomquist, the 36-year-old utility man, had punched a curveball into right for an opposite-field double. In his second, as Ventura attempted to work around a leadoff double by Zunino, he flicked a fastball into the same area. The ball connected with the chalk for a game-tying double.
Zunino vanquished Ventura in the seventh. The Royals offered no retort. They stranded the tying runner at second base in the bottom of the frame. The same outcome occurred in the eighth.