OAKLAND, Calif. | File this one in the loss column for the Royals. But chalk it up also as part of the evaluation process the club is working its way through over the season’s final two months.
Here’s the shorthand: Two costly infield errors and an attack that pretty much snoozed after a two-run first inning Wednesday afternoon sent the Royals to a disappointing 4-3 loss to the Oakland A’s.
So they settled for winning just once in the three-game series.
The evaluation centered on right-hander Sean O’Sullivan, a burly 22-year-old acquired July 22 in a trade that sent third baseman Alberto Callaspo to the Los Angeles Angels.
O’Sullivan nursed that early 2-0 lead into the sixth inning before trouble surfaced. Those errors — one by O’Sullivan in throwing away a bunt — fueled the damage, but manager Ned Yost chose to stay with his young starter for a key at-bat against Kevin Kouzmanoff.
Oakland had already tied the game at that point and had runners at first and second with one out. Further, O’Sullivan had already thrown 109 pitches, including 25 in that inning.
“Really, he was cruising through five,” Yost said. “He just ran into a little bit of trouble there in the sixth. We’re just at the point where we’re getting to know the kid. It’s his third start for us.
“Some of that inning, I’ve got to take credit for. Normally, in that situation, I’d have brought (Kanekoa) Texeira in to face Kouzmanoff. I’m at the stage where part of me says, ‘Bring Texeira in,’ and the other part of me says, ‘Let’s see if he can pitch himself out of this.’”
Kouzmanoff whacked a 2-1 fastball just beyond a sprinting Mitch Maier in center field for a two-run double. The A’s led 4-2.
“It was an opportunity for me to show I can get out of that situation,” O’Sullivan said. “And I believe that nine times out of 10, I will (get out of it). It was highly frustrating that I was unable to get the ground ball when I needed it.
“It was the same pitch that, earlier in the game, he hit a ground ball to shortstop. He just got a better piece of the bat on it. I don’t second-guess the pitch.”
O’Sullivan departed at that point. In came Texeira, who worked 162/37 scoreless innings. Blake Wood added a scoreless eighth. All too late as it turned out.
“It’s all part of the learning process for everybody,” Yost said. “I liked the way that (O’Sullivan) stayed after it. I like the way that he battled the whole game. There’s a lot to like about him.
“I think he’s upset with himself for not getting a ground ball because he knows he can get a ground ball against Kouzmanoff. He just didn’t do it.”
Oakland lefty Brett Anderson, 3-2, rebounded from his rough start by retiring 19 of the final 22 batters he faced before exiting after the seventh inning. He permitted just three hits.
Yuniesky Betancourt’s homer in the eighth against Craig Breslow pulled the Royals to within one run, but Michael Wuertz closed out Oakland’s victory with a three-strikeout ninth.
The Royals jumped to their 2-0 lead after Chris Getz opened the game with a four-pitch walk. Getz went to third on Mike Aviles’ hit-and-run single through the right side.
Billy Butler, swinging on a 3-0 count, sent a drive to deep center that scored Getz and moved Aviles to third. José Guillen’s soft chopper to third produced the second run when Aviles eluded Suzuki’s tag. O’Sullivan, 1-2, spent much of his 561/37 innings working from the stretch but avoided trouble until the sixth. Then it fell apart in a hurry.
Cliff Pennington led off with a soft looping single into center and stole second before Coco Crisp walked.
O’Sullivan’s error occurred when he threw wildly to first after fielding Daric Barton’s bunt. It was ruled a single and a run-scoring error that also permitted Crisp to reach third.
“I make that play routinely 10 out of 10 times throughout my entire career,” O’Sullivan said. “That’s why it’s so frustrating. For me to yank it down the line this one time is unacceptable.”
The second error came when Suzuki’s sharp grounder, a potential double-play ball, bounded over Aviles’s glove-side shoulder at third. That tied the game at 2-2 and put runners at first and second with, still, no outs.
“He top-spinned it,” Aviles said. “I don’t know what I could have done differently. If I stay in front of it, it probably hits me in the throat. If I could do it again, I would do exactly what I did.”
O’Sullivan struck out Jack Cust before facing Kouzmanoff.
“Obviously, if I don’t throw that ball down the line.…,” O’Sullivan said. “That didn’t help. It all boils down to me being unable to get that ground ball from Kouzmanoff. End of story.”