If 40 games is a benchmark — the de facto quarter pole in baseball’s marathon derby — then Sunday provided another opportunity to view the 2012 Royals with a wide-angle lens.
And really, the Royals’ 2-0 loss to Arizona in front of a crowd of 24,234 — including 391 dogs — fell in line with a handful of seasonlong themes.
The Royals came up a couple runs short at home. Eric Hosmer went hitless while ripping a ninth-inning liner that found its way into a fielder’s glove. Starter Nate Adcock pitched five strong innings but still managed to pick up a loss.
Not a bad snapshot for the Royals’ life at home this season.
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“It’s been tough,” said right fielder Jeff Francoeur, who matched a career high with four hits. “I still said I’d like to see where we’re at at the end of May, and we still got a nine-game road trip coming up. We’ve played really well on the road, so we’re really confident.”
The loss dropped the Royals to just 1-4 on the brief five-game home stand — negating a 4-1 road trip last week — and we’ll now pause for a brief pop-culture interlude. You may remember the 1990s classic “Dumb & Dumber,” with Jim Carrey’s character, Lloyd Christmas, offering up the following proverb: “Some people just aren’t cut out for life on the road.”
In the Royals’ case, no, the road has been the easy part. It’s life at Kauffman Stadium that has provided the deepest cuts and bruises.
The Royals fell to just 5-17 at home before escaping back on the road for a nine-game trip that starts at Yankee Stadium on Monday night.
On Sunday, the offense was held in check for seven innings by Arizona rookie Wade Miley, a former supplemental-round selection in 2008. Miley, the National League’s Rookie of the Month for April, threw seven scoreless innings and lowered his ERA to 2.14 for the season.
“He was working off his fastball,” said Hosmer, who went zero for three and watched his average drop to .172. And when a pitcher does that, all his other pitches are a lot more effective. And he just went out and attacked guys.”
The Royals’ offense managed just seven hits — including four from Francoeur — and the bats couldn’t break through against reliever David Hernandez in the eighth or closer J.J. Putz in the ninth.
Trailing 2-0, the Royals did put two runners on in the eighth after Billy Butler was hit by a pitch and Francoeur floated a singled into center field. But Alex Gordon couldn’t check his swing with two strikes and the rally ended.
The Royals’ were shut out for the fourth time this season, and Miley set the tone.
“Miley was that good,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “First time we’ve seen him. We watched video on him. He was exactly what we thought he’d be. (He’s) got really good stuff. Commands the ball down. Kind of throws across his body, has a very quick arm. (It was) tough to pick up.”
Adcock, meanwhile, was starting on short notice after Everett Teaford went on the disabled list on Saturday. And he may have just earned himself another start after allowing just one earned run and five hits in five innings of work.
After a whirlwind week of promotions, demotions and airline flights, Adcock made the most of his 80-pitch limit.
“Our goal was to get him to 80 pitches,” Yost said. “He’s been on a merry-go-round the last three weeks and hasn’t been lengthened out.”
Adcock added three strikeouts and has now allowed just two earned runs in his last 10 innings of work, lowering his season ERA to 2.33 in five appearances. The only slipup came in the fifth, when first baseman Paul Goldschmidt led off by banging a hanging sinker to left for a leadoff double. Goldschmidt went to third on Aaron Hill’s single to right, and John McDonald followed with a safety squeeze down the first-base line.
Hosmer closed quickly, but a small bobble allowed all runners to be safe.
“I was coming in hard,” Hosmer said, “trying to get the out at home. And I kind of looked up and saw the runner already getting there, so I tried to change momentum and go to first.”
The Diamondbacks gave themselves some breathing room with a run against right-handed reliever Greg Holland in the eighth. With Gerardo Parra on third base with one out, Justin Upton lifted a flyball to deep right. Francoeur’s throw carried close to 300 feet in the air, but Parra slid in just under the tag from Brayan Pena.
The Royals threatened in the sixth when Francoeur knocked a two-out triple off the right field wall. But once again, Miley escaped when Gordon rolled a soft grounder to second base.
Francoeur, who spent the morning working on a new timing mechanism in the batting cage, raised his average from .235 to .255.
“I’ve been kind of late to the ball,” Francoeur said. “(I’ve) been kind of getting started late, so we worked on just kind of a trigger, going off the pitcher’s hand.”
So here they are, the Royals after 40 games: 16-24, 6 ½ games out of first and firmly in fourth place in the AL Central. For now, maybe it is best to get back on the road.
“You know what,” Yost said, “we’re still to a point where I think we’re firing on about six cylinders. I think that once we get going on all eight cylinders, we’re gonna be a pretty good team.”