Whatever its charms, this newly refurbished Kauffman Stadium sure doesn’t seem to offer the Royals much of a home-field advantage.
It’s now nearly four months since the Royals won a home series against an American League opponent after Wednesday afternoon’s 4-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Kauffman Stadium.
“It’s been a while since we won a series, period,” right fielder Willie Bloomquist noted. “We’re just not playing the way we’re capable of playing. I’m not.”
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The Royals are bad everywhere. They have won only one of their last 17 series overall. (That was earlier this month at Minnesota.) But their home drought now covers 13 series. And while that includes a pair of 2-2 splits, the Royals haven’t won a home series against an AL club since a two-game sweep May 6-7 against Seattle.
If that date sounds familiar, it’s no surprise.
Those two victories boosted the Royals to 18-11, their season’s apex, before the muck started piling up. (The Royals did win one of three interleague home series — a three-game sweep of Cincinnati in mid-June — if you care to count that.)
By any measure, this was a missed opportunity Wednesday after Zack Greinke’s 15-strikeout gem Tuesday night provided an opportunity to break the skid. But the game’s first play set the tone:
First baseman Billy Butler booted Grady Sizemore’s leadoff grounder for an error.
It never got much better.
Royals starter Luke Hochevar dialed up a second straight quality start but paid dearly for an inability to keep Sizemore off the bases. Sizemore reached safely in all four plate appearances against Hochevar, including twice on walks, and scored three times.
“I can’t afford to give him free passes,” Hochevar said, “especially with (Jamey) Carroll hitting behind him. Carroll is a good hit-and-run guy who doesn’t strike out a lot. They hit-and-ran a couple of times, and Sizemore stole a bag.
“To win that game, I need to hold the runners better and control the running game; and I can’t allow free passes.”
There was also a wild pitch — on a fastball — that permitted the eventual winning run to score in the fifth inning. That was the Royals’ 73rd wild pitch of the season. No other AL club started the day with more than 50.
The Indians got the game’s final run when Hochevar hung an 0-2 slider to Matt LaPorta with two outs in the sixth. LaPorta sent it over the left-field wall.
“That was a terrible pitch to LaPorta,” Hochevar said. “I had him 0-2 with two outs in a 3-2 ballgamethat can’t happen.”
Hochevar, 6-7, is now winless six starts after allowing four runs, three earned, and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings.
“I feel like I’m making improvements,” he said, “but the bottom line is I didn’t pitch well enough to win that game. That’s what matters.”
Indians starter David Huff, a rookie left-hander, twice surrendered one-run leads but got the victory when Joe Smith, Chris Perez and Kerry Wood protected a two-run lead over the final three innings.
Huff, 8-7, allowed two runs and seven hits. Wood got his 16th save in 21 chances.
The loss dropped the Royals back to 30 games under .500 at 48-78. It also closed out a 1-5 homestand and continued the dreary march toward a fifth 100-loss season in eight years. The Royals must go 15-21 or better in their remaining 36 games to avoid that fate.
Even so, manager Trey Hillman insisted afterward the lack of success doesn’t reflect a lack of effort.
“That’s usually the first thing people jump to when a team’s struggling to win ballgames,” he said. “`Well, they quit.’ I get questions trying to lead me into that all the time. I don’t buy it.
“It’s a frustrating year. Losses are tough to let go of. It’s something you’ve got to overcome.”
The Indians, in contrast, appear to be doing just that. They are 21-16 since the All-Star break while improving to 56-70 overall. They now hold an eight-game lead over the Royals in what was once a battle to avoid finishing last in the American League Central Division.
Cleveland finished with 10 hits, including three by Carroll _ each one coming with Sizemore on base. LaPorta had a double in addition to his homer.
The Royals erased a 1-0 hole in the first inning on Mark Teahen’s sacrifice fly and pulled even in the third on Miguel Olivo’s bloop double. But that double was their only extra-base hit.
The Royals failed to get a runner past first base in the final six innings and dropped to 26-41 at Kauffman Stadium. Yes, that’s the worst home record in the majors.