Watching the Royals these days is like watching a river rise past flood stage. And it’s now eight losses high and climbing after suffering a double-header sweep Tuesday to the Los Angeles Angels.
This was miserable stuff _ 8-5 and 10-2.
Angels starter Ervin Santana lugged a 6.70 ERA into the opener, saw it go up to 6.79, and still _ still! _ handed over a three-run lead when Darren Oliver began the bottom of the seventh inning.
The nightcap was competitive until Juan Cruz reprised his arsonist work from two weekend losses to Tampa Bay in a nightmarish seven-run seventh inning. LA led 3-2 when Cruz replaced Robinson Tejeda with the bases loaded and no outs.
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Cruz faced five hitters. Erick Aybar lashed a three-run triple. Bobby Abreu followed with an RBI double _ his third of the game. Mike Napoli flied to right and, presumably, had to buy a round for that sin at some future date.
Gary Matthews Jr. then worked a walk before Cruz concluded his work by surrendered a two-run to Howie Kendrick. Cruz departed to loud boos from the crowd of 23,874 and with the Angels leading 9-2.
LA added another run against John Bale, when first baseman Billy Butler pop-flied a throw over the 6-foot-4 Bale after fielding Robb Quinlan’s soft grounder.
It was all as bad as it sounds. Worse, the river shows no signs of cresting.
The Royals are now 37-56 with 45 losses in their last 64 games. That means they must go 26-43 or better in their remaining 69 games to avoid a fifth 100-loss season in eight years.
And how about this? When Joakim Soria entered for a shake-the-rust inning at the close of the second game, with the Royals trailing by eight runs, the public-address system and video board went into full “Welcome to the Jungle” mode.
Well, why not? Soria might have produced the Royals’ high point of the day by working a scoreless inning with two strikeouts.
As for the rest of the Royals’ increasingly combustible bullpen, it was a miserable day.
It wasn’t just Cruz, either. Ron Mahay and Roman Colon let a close game slip away in the opener, although the loss went to Sidney Ponson, 1-6, in his first outing since returning from the disabled list.
Tejeda then set the stage for Cruz’s latest flop in the nightcap. In all, the bullpen worked eight innings behind Ponson and second-game starter Bruce Chen. The damage: nine runs, 10 hits and six walks.
Aybar paced LA’s 25-hit attack in the sweep by getting three singles in the opener before producing his first career four-hit game. He also scored five runs and drove in four.
“Erick’s very quietly putting his game together the way he really can,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “The offensive side, he’s gotten comfortable as the season’s gone on.
“He’s hitting well with guys in RBI spots. We’ve had him hitting second, we’ve had him hitting ninth, and that versatility is important.”
Abreu tied a franchise record with three doubles in the second game.
Santana, 3-5, allowed five runs and eight hits over six innings in the opener before Oliver, Kevin Jepsen and Brian Fuentes closed out the victory. Fuentes worked the ninth for his major-league-leading 29th save.
The Angels spread 12 hits throughout a balanced attack. Aybar had three singles, while Kendry Morales, Mike Napoli and Gary Matthews Jr. had two hits apiece. Matthews and Reggie Willits each drove in two runs.
Napoli delivered a booming leadoff homer in the sixth inning against Ponson after the Royals took a brief 5-4 lead on Billy Butler’s two-run homer in the fifth.
“Fastball,” Ponson said. “His second at-bat, I went 1-0 on him, and he didn’t swing on the next pitch. So I said, `I’m going to get a strike here.’ He never let me get there. It was right down the middle, and he hit it.”
Ponson compiled a 2.18 ERA in six rehab starts at Class AAA Omaha while recovering from strained right elbow. That success didn’t accompany him back to the big leagues for his first start since May 6.
“We lost the game.” Ponson said. “That’s the bottom line. They gave me the lead, and two pitches into the sixth, it was tied back up. No excuses. I didn’t pitch well.”
Chen fell to 0-5 in the second game after giving up three runs and seven hits in five innings. He actually had a 2-0 lead after the Royals scored single runs in each of the first two innings against LA rookie Sean O’Sullivan, who improved to 3-0 after working 5 1/3 innings.
The Angels pulled even with a two-run third. Quinlan led off with a homer before Abreu delivered the first of his three RBI doubles. Abreu second double came in the fifth and gave the Angels a 3-2 lead.
It stayed that way until the seventh.
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