Really. It happened again.
The Royals continued their plunge toward the vaudeville status of their recent past Wednesday night by coughing up a late four-run lead for the second straight night in an 11-5 loss to the Texas Rangers at Kauffman Stadium.
The main culprit, again, was a disintegrating bullpen that couldn’t bridge the gap between an effective starting performance and the game’s conclusion.
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How bad was it? Well, Kyle Davies handed a four-run lead to the bullpen in the seventh inning. Jeff Fulchino and Jimmy Gobble surrendered the advantage, and more, before retiring a single batter.
David Murphy highlighted a seven-run explosion with a grand slam against Gobble in just the sort of lefty-lefty matchup in which Gobble once excelled. Gobble faced four batters, yielded three hits and a walk and saw his ERA spike to 8.10.
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There was some sloppy defense, too. Joey Gathright failed to run down two drives to center — one deep and one short. Both would have been nice catches, but Gathright has made better. Both were scored as hits.
Shortstop Mike Aviles also bounced a throw past first baseman Mark Teahen for a two-base throwing error.
It was, if anything, worse than Tuesday, when the Royals blew a four-run lead with four outs to go in a 6-5 loss in the series opener. Teahen committed a costly error in that one by dropping a low throw from Aviles before the bullpen unraveled.
The Royals have now lost 19 of their last 23 in falling to 25-41. Seattle is the only club in either with a worse record.
Further, the Royals need a victory this afternoon in the series finale to avoid falling behind last year’s pace; the 2007 club was 26-41 after 67 games en route to a 69-93 finish.
The Rangers salted the wound by scoring three more runs in the ninth against struggling Brett Tomko. Murphy hit Tomko’s first pitch for a homer for the first multi-homer game of his career.
Texas starter Vicente Padilla, 8-3, got the victory despite allowing five runs in six innings. Jamey Wright, Eddie Guardado and Frank Francisco closed out the victory.
The Rangers finished with 16 hits, including three each from Murphy, Ian Kinsler and Marlon Byrd. Murphy had five RBIs, while Byrd scored three runs.
The Royals built a 5-1 lead through six innings against Padilla. Mark Grudzielanek did most of the damage with a two-run double in the third inning and a two-run homer in the sixth.
Grudzielanek’s four RBIs were one shy of a career high and boosted his season total from seven to 11.
Davies halted major losing streaks in his only two previous starts — a 12-game skid by beating Cleveland on May 31, and an 11-game road drought last Friday by beating New York.
This time, he was asked to erase the sour aftertaste of Tuesday’s 6-5 loss.
Again, Davies responded. The only real negative was his inability to keep his pitch count down; he walked five and threw 109 pitches before exiting with a 5-1 lead.
It all got away in a hurry.
Fulchino began the seventh by allowing a triple to Ramon Vazquez on a drive to deep center that appeared to fool Gathright. Fulchino then induced a grounder to short from Kinsler, but Aviles bounced the throw past Teahen for a two-base error.
When Michael Young worked back from an 0-2 count for a walk, manager Trey Hillman summoned Gobble for a lefty-lefty matchup against Josh Hamilton.
Hamilton lined the first pitch into center, and the lead was down to 5-3. Gobble then loaded the bases by walking Milton Bradley.
Gobble fell into a 2-0 hole against Murphy, who then unloaded on an 89-mph fastball.
Marlon Byrd then flicked a fly into short center. Gathright reached it after a long sprint but couldn’t hold it. The result was a double that finished Gobble.
In came Yasuhiko Yabuta, who allowed a sacrifice fly before ending the inning.