The off-day and a temporary reset can’t get here soon enough for the Royals. Amidst the angst about the performance of the bullpen, the Tampa Bay Rays did the majority of the damage against the Royals starter for the second straight night.
The Royals (7-17) fell behind by four runs in the first two innings on their way to a 5-2 loss in front of an announced 8,298 at Tropicana Field on Tuesday night as Royals pitcher Homer Bailey had his worst start of the season.
“It just wasn’t his night,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “It was a night where he struggled from the onset.”
The loss extended the Royals’ losing streak to five games, and dropped their record on the road trip to 2-7 with one game remaining before their off-day on Thursday.
The Rays announced prior to Tuesday night’s game that they’ll activate left-handed pitcher Blake Snell, last year’s American League Cy Young Award winner, and he’ll start the series finale on Wednesday afternoon.
The “opener” duties for the Rays on Tuesday night fell to pitcher Ryne Stanek. The Rays drafted him out of the University of Arkansas in 2013, but Stanek also played for Blue Valley High School. He pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings.
Bailey didn’t make it through two innings. He allowed four earned runs on three hits and four walks in an inning plus against the Rays.
“(His velocity) was down a little bit, and location. He battled location,” Yost said. “It was just one of those days where he was just off. You know, we had the off-day Thursday, but he’s the only one that’s not going to get an extra day because we’re flipping him.
“So I’m like, OK, it’s obvious that he’s not on tonight, and I’m not going to try to get length out of him just to get through the inning. Hopefully if we can hold them right there and battle back offensively, we’ll see what happens.”
Bailey’s previous two outings were stellar, including the way he skilfully diffused the Bronx Bombers last week in Yankee Stadium. He’d come into the night having allowed just one run and five hits in his previous two starts (13 innings).
On Thursday night, he became the first Royals pitcher to hold the Yankees to three hits or fewer in at least six innings at Yankee Stadium since Yordano Ventura (Sept. 7, 2014).
“I just struggled with command and sometimes when you don’t have the command you back off on pitches and don’t have the velo,” Bailey said. “Just one of the days.”
On Tuesday night, Bailey didn’t look anything like he had five days earlier. Bailey struggled to put pitches where he wanted to from the first batter. He walked the first two batters he faced. Thanks largely to a double play turned by second baseman Whit Merrifield, Bailey got out of the first inning having given up just one run on a two-out RBI single by Joe Wendel.
“For sure,” Bailey said of feeling OK, physically. “It has nothing to do with anything physical. I just didn’t make my pitches.”
Of the 38 pitches he threw in his inning plus of work, nearly half (18) were out of the strike zone. After striking out 27 batters in his first 23 innings of the season, Bailey didn’t register a strikeout on Tuesday night.
“If the ball is not coming out of your hand correctly, then you’re not going to have a lot of things,” Bailey said of his stuff. “You’re not going to have your command. You’re not going to be behind it to get that velocity and stuff.”
Before he got pulled in what was ultimately a three-run second inning, Bailey allowed a walk, back-to-back singles and another walk to load the bases with one run having already scored in the inning and no outs.
The final two runs charged to Bailey came with Jake Newberry on the mound. Newberry gave up an RBI single to Lowe and a sacrifice fly to Yandy Diaz. The Rays chased Bailey, worked through the batting order one and a half times and established a four-run lead in the first two innings.
The Royals offense, which came into the day having averaged 4.43 runs per game, lacked one of its hottest bats and a player who regularly makes as hard of contact as anyone in the majors in Hunter Dozier (back spasms).
During the previous eight games, Dozier went 10-for-24 (.417) with five runs scored, three doubles, four home runs, five RBIs and eight walks. He’d been hitting so well that Yost moved him into the cleanup spot in the batting order behind Alex Gordon.
Ray catcher Mike Zunino, who hit his first home run on Monday night and celebrated the birth of his first child on Friday, added another home run in the sixth inning off Royals recently recalled reliever Tim Hill.
The Royals scored on a solo home run by catcher Martin Maldonado in the sixth, and Adalberto Mondesi singled, advanced on a groundout and scored from second base on a wild pitch that caromed away from the catcher toward the visiting dugout.