It’s all collapsing right now for the Royals in a miserable July that seems eons long. They lost again Thursday night – 4-1 to the Seattle Mariners, a club that, if not for the Royals, would have a worse record than the Royals.
Read that back again slowly. It’s as bad as it sounds; as bad as this: The Mariners have won four of five games between the two clubs over the last 11 days.
Seattle starter José Vargas limited the Royals to one hit in the first eight innings, so it probably didn’t matter what Luis Mendoza did.
“It just wasn’t a very good job by us,” left fielder Alex Gordon said. “It’s going to be a long year if we keep playing like that.”
Mendoza had all sorts of trouble against an opponent whose leader in hits, Ichiro Suzuki, is in New York and whose leader in homers, Justin Smoak, was recently demoted to the minors.
“My pitches were up,” Mendoza said, “and I pitched behind in the count, too. I gave up too many hits. It was just high, high, high. I should be more aggressive, I think. Make better pitches.”
The Mariners cuffed Mendoza – who had been pitching fairly well, remember – for four runs and nine hits in five-plus innings with major contributions from Mike Carp, Miguel Olivo, Carlos Peguero and Brendan Ryan.
Those four players entered the game with averages of .146, .198, .161 and .188.
“When you’re throwing the ball up and over the middle of the plate,” manager Ned Yost said, “guys are going to get hits. This is the big leagues.”
The Royals’ rotation is like living through tornado weather, where you’re either ducking for cover or bracing for the sirens to go off. And they can go off at any time – Carp, Olivo, Peguero and Ryan.
Vargas, 11-7, allowed only a two-out RBI double in the fourth inning to Billy Butler. That followed a walk to Lorenzo Cain after Vargas retired the first 11 hitters. Vargas permitted two more walks but no more hits before exiting after the eighth.
“It was a lot of Vargas,” Yost said. “We just couldn’t get anything going. He moved the ball in and out. He changed speeds. Going into the ninth inning, I was glad I gave Billy a 3-0 green light. That was our only hit.”
Tom Wilhelmsen worked around another Butler double, a two-out drive to right-center, in the ninth for his 12th save in 14 opportunities.
The Royals lost for the 18th time in 24 games.
Mendoza, 4-7, ran into immediate trouble when Dustin Ackley opened the Seattle first with a sharp single to right. Ackley moved to second when Casper Wells’ full-swing squibber toward third turned into a one-out single.
Right fielder Jeff Francoeur lost John Jaso’s fly in the twilight sun but recovered in time to throw out Wells at second as Ackley went to third.
Mendoza loaded the bases by hitting Kyle Seager, and Carp (he of the .146 average) inside-outed a two-run single up the middle.
The Royals didn’t get a runner against Vargas until Cain drew a two-out walk in the fourth inning. Butler followed with an RBI double into the left-center gap.
“I had no idea that would be the only hit we had going into the ninth,” Butler said. “You’ve got to give (Vargas) credit. He threw a great game.”
Butler’s two doubles boosted his career total to 201, which ranks eighth on the franchise’s all-time list. Next up is Joe Randa with 223. George Brett is the club’s all-time leader with 665.
The Mariners canceled that run with one of their own later in the inning after Carp and Olivo (he of the .198 average) reached on successive singles.
Mendoza retired Peguero on a fly to left, but Ryan (he of the .187 average) rammed an RBI single into left for a 3-1 lead. Mendoza escaped further damage, in part, by picking off Olivo at second.
But Olivo opened the sixth with a double into the left-center gap, and Peguero (he of the .152 average) followed with an RBI double past first that boosted Seattle’s lead to 4-1. A wild pitch moved Peguero to third.
When Ryan worked back from an 0-2 count for a walk, Yost went to the bullpen for José Mijares as the Mariners’ lineup turned over. Mijares prevented further damage by getting two strikeouts and an infield grounder. A nice footnote.
“There was one guy who showed up offensively for us today,” Gordon said. “That was Billy. Otherwise, we didn’t do a very good job.”