Kansas City Royals

Royals rally, but Nationals get to Diekman to pull out the win

After 16 consecutive scoreless innings, the Royals’ offense came to life with an eighth-inning rally to tie their rubber match on the road against the Washington Nationals. Then it all went downhill in a hurry.

The Nationals scored three eighth-inning runs (two earned) against Royals relief pitcher Jake Diekman to break a tie and snatch the game and the series. The Royals dropped the series finale 5-2 in front of an announced 21,873 at Nationals Park Sunday afternoon.

The Royals won’t play again until Friday at home following the Major League Baseball All-Star break.

Alex Gordon went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI, while Jorge Soler also doubled and Adalberto Mondesi drove in a run and scored a run for the Royals (30-61).

Royals starter Jakob Junis made two costly mistakes on a day that his club’s offense got shut down by Nationals starter Patrick Corbin.

“It just seems like every time Jake makes a mistake they hit it out of the ballpark for a home run,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of Junis. “He made two of them today, a fastball up to (Brian) Dozier and a slider that kinda spun on him for another home run, but he was fantastic. He threw the ball really well.”

Junis came into the day having given up 11 runs (10 earned) in his previous two starts, both against the Cleveland Indians, but he put together his best start in weeks.

Junis pitched seven compete innings, which he’d only done twice in 18 previous starts this season. He allowed two runs on a pair of solo home runs, allowed just five hits and walked two on a day when he also struck out six.

“(I was) just getting ahead, not picking at the corners too much,” Junis said. “Just trying to be aggressive and attack them.”

Corbin held the Royals scoreless for seven innings — the second consecutive day a Nationals starter tossed seven scoreless against the Royals. Like Max Scherzer, a former University of Missouri standout, did on Saturday, Corbin also struck out 11.

A pair of solo home runs courtesy of Brian Dozier and Victor Robles provided the Nationals (47-42) a 2-0 lead through seven innings.

“I’ve been struggling a little bit lately,” Junis said. “To go out there and have a good outing like that, seven innings and two runs, it’s good going into the break and going into the second half and hopefully build off of it.”

The Royals scored two runs with two outs in the eighth after Corbin left the game. Martin Maldonado singled, and Terrance Gore pinch-ran for him.

Gore stole second base and scored on a two-out RBI single flared into left field off the end of Mondesi’s bat.

Batting against Nationals left-handed reliever Sean Doolittle, Gordon rocketed an RBI double high off the wall in right-center field to tie it as Mondesi sped around to score from first base.

The Nationals took the lead back in the bottom of the eighth. Diekman allowed a one-out single to Adam Eaton up the middle followed by an RBI double by Anthony Rendon driven into the left-center field gap.

Then, after Diekman committed a fielding error on a slow roller by Juan Soto, pinch-hitter Howie Kendrick ripped a two-run double down the third base line and into the left field corner that gave the Nationals a three-run advantage, 5-2.

“It’s kind of been the tale of the season,” Royals outfielder/infielder Whit Merrifield said. “Playing well, just not winning games. It’s unfortunate, but it’s sorta been that way. Hopefully, we can turn it around at some point.”

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.