MIAMI | Did Royals manager Trey Hillman stick too long with starting pitcher Brian Bannister in Saturday’s 7-3 loss to the Florida Marlins? Every game has its what-ifs.
All that’s certain is Bannister, strong and steady through six innings, never made it though the seventh.
The Marlins struck for five runs, all coming on two no-doubt homers, in erasing a 3-2 deficit. That was more than enough to end the Royals’ five-game winning streak and keep them from climbing back to .500 for the first time since April 19.
Bannister stood at 93 pitches as he carried a 3-2 lead into the seventh. Too many to continue in the muggy heat? That’s the easy hindsight call.
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Bottom line? Keeping him in sure didn’t turn out well.
Bannister gave up a leadoff single to Luis Gonzalez before walking Mike Rabelo on four pitches. What made it worse was Rabelo was trying to sacrifice and give up an out.
It got worse.
Bannister jumped ahead 0-2 on pinch-hitter Wes Helms before hanging a curve. Helms tomahawked it 418 feet over the left-field scoreboard for a three-run homer.
The Marlins led 5-3.
Bannister lasted two more hitters before departing after Jeremy Hermida’s one-out single. Reliever Ron Mahay struck out Hanley Ramirez, but Mike Jacobs followed with a two-run homer.
It was more than enough.
Logan Kensing, 3-0, got the victory in relief of Florida starter Scott Olson. Matt Lindstrom and Kevin Gregg closed out the victory, which squared the three-game series at one victory apiece.
The loss dropped the Royals to 20-22 and kept them from closing to within at least one game of first place in the American League Central.
Bannister, 4-5, gave up six runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings as his ERA jumped to 4.29. He allowed two runs and four hits through six innings before everything unraveled in the seventh.
Olsen yielded three runs and seven hits in six innings but also kept the game close by stranded seven runners, including four in scoring position.
The Royals left the bases loaded in a scoreless first inning before grabbing a two-run lead in the third. Mark Grudzielanek punched a one-out single to right before Alex Gordon worked a walk.
José Guillen marked his 32nd birthday by continuing his torrid stretch with a two-run double to left. He has 11 RBIs in his last seven games.
The Marlins got even in the fourth when outfielders Joey Gathright and David DeJesus collided in right-center field when chasing after Jacobs’ one-out drive to the wall with Ramirez at first.
Either Gathright or DeJesus appeared capable of catching the ball. Instead, they collided and neither caught the ball, which ricocheted toward the infield. Jacobs legged out an RBI triple before Gathright got the ball back to the infield.
Bannister retired Dan Uggla on a foul pop, but Jorge Cantu tied the game by lashing lashed an RBI single off the left-field wall.
The Royals answered immediately.
Again, Grudzielanek was the igniter. He opened the fifth with a double to left but got no farther until Billy Butler lined an RBI double past Hermida in right.
Royals’ Summers of 42
Year, Record, Place, Games Behind
2008, 20-22, 4, 1.5*
2007, 15-27, 5, 11
2006, 10-32, 5, 19
2005, 12-30, 5, 18
2004, 14-28, 5, 10
2003, 24-18, 2, ½
2002, 16-26, 4, 7½
2001, 16-26, 4, 13
*Pending outcomes of other games