If this isn’t the bottom, it’s got to be close. The Royals built a six-run lead Friday night — and it still wasn’t enough to pull them out of their deepening August fade.
Washington stormed back against Bruce Chen and Louis Coleman with a seven-run fourth inning for an 11-10 victory at Kauffman Stadium.
Consider: The Royals had not blown a lead bigger than four runs this season in any previous game — and they only did that once, June 30 at Minnesota, and they still managed to win that game.
So, yes, this was a fiasco.
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Chen exited after Bryce Harper’s three-run double pulled the Nationals even at 6-6, and Jayson Werth followed with a cannon-shot homer against Coleman for the lead.
There was still lots of time left for the Royals to rally, and they mounted a three-run burst in that ninth. That only made it, in some ways, even worse.
Washington carried an 11-7 lead into the ninth after a three-run seventh against Tim Collins and Kelvin Herrera. A two-run throwing error by Chris Getz on a play at the plate was, as it turned out, the knockout blow.
Here’s the updated math: the Royals’ skid is now at six with nine losses in 11 games. They are still above .500, barely at 64-63.
Want a glimmer of good news? Oakland lost, so the Royals didn’t fall any further back in the chase for the American League’s final wild-card berth. That seven-game gap, however, seems increasingly Everestian.
Neither starting pitcher — Chen or Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez — survived the fourth inning. That meant Chen (5-2) got a loss for squandering that six-run lead. Gonzalez merely got a no-decision.
Washington reliever Tanner Roark (4-0) got the victory after replacing Gonzalez with one out in the fourth. Roark worked 4 2/3 scoreless innings before Drew Storen started the ninth.
The Royals stirred to life.
Alex Gordon led off with a walk and went to third on Eric Hosmer’s double into the right-center gap. That forced the Nationals to call on closer Rafael Soriano.
Salvy Perez’s grounder to short made it 11-8 before Billy Butler served a single to right that moved Hosmer to third. Pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson immediately stole second.
Justin Maxwell punched a two-run single into center, which closed the gap to 11-10. But Harper turned the inning around with a diving catch on Emilio Bonifacio’s sinking liner for the second out.
Soriano then ended the game by retiring Alcides Escobar on a fly to left for his 33rd save.
Early on, it was all Royals, which suggested a positive response to a pre-game closed meeting in the clubhouse.
They got a leadoff double in the first inning from Gordon, and Hosmer followed with a two-run homer into the Royals’ bullpen for a 2-0 lead.
Justin Maxwell made it 3-0 with a two-out homer on a high drive that just cleared the wall in left-center field.
It marked the Royals’ first two-homer game since Aug. 9 (Gordon and Maxwell), and their first two-homer inning since Aug. 8 (the eighth; Butler and Maxwell). Both of those games were against Boston.
The Royals rocked Gonzalez for three more runs in the second inning after Jamey Carroll broke a zero-for-16 skid since joining the Royals with a one-out double to deep left.
Gordon followed with an RBI double to left-center before scoring on Hosmer’s single into center. After Perez reached on an error by shortstop Ian Desmond, Butler drove an RBI single into right.
The Nationals got one run back in the third when Chen ran into two-out trouble. Anthony Rendon lined a single to left and scored on Denard Span’s triple past Bonifacio in deep center.
Chen then walked the next two hitters but stranded three runners by retiring Werth on a fly to right. Bullet dodged, right?
Washington quickly put more heat on Chen in the fourth inning by loading the bases with one out on three singles. Rendon’s sacrifice fly to right made it 6-2. A walk to Span reloaded the bases.
Chen then battled Ryan Zimmerman through 10 pitches before losing him on a run-scoring walk. Harper followed with a three-run double into the right-center gap that pulled Washington even at 6-6.
That finished Chen, who threw 95 pitches in 3 2/3 innings.
It got worse when Werth put a 417-foot charge into a full-count fastball from Coleman, who had not yielded a run in his 18 previous appearances since his recall from Triple-A Omaha.
That capped a seven-run inning that propelled the Nationals to an 8-6 lead. Chen’s final line showed seven runs on six hits and five walks. His ERA jumped from 2.20 to 2.88.
The Royals knocked out Gonzalez in the bottom of the inning. Gordon led off with a single, his third hit, and Hosmer followed with a four-pitch walk. Perez grounded an RBI single up the middle before Butler flied to center.
Washington went to its bullpen at that point for Roark, who held the lead by getting Maxwell to ground into a double play.
Collins worked a brisk sixth after replacing Coleman but started the seventh by yielding a single to Desmond and a double to Wilson Ramos. A walk to LaRoche loaded the bases with no outs.
In came Herrera, who yielded an RBI single Tyler Moore before Rendon’s grounder to second resulted in a two-run error when Getz threw wildly to the plate in an attempt to get a force.
In the end, that made the hill too steep.