Kansas City Royals

Royals hitters handcuffed by Cardinals, Flaherty in 2-0 loss

The Royals’ offense displayed big-time power and the ability to change the outlook of a game with one swing of a bat on the road. However, that offense never showed up against the in-state rivals from the National League on Tuesday night.

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jack Flaherty set the tone with seven scoreless innings as the Royals were shut out and held to just four hits in a 2-0 loss in front of an announced 23,563 at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals, who wrapped a 10-day road trip on Sunday, played their first home game since July 31.

The Cardinals (62-55) pulled ahead in the season series between the teams, 2-1, with one game left between the clubs.

Royals starting pitcher Glenn Sparkman (3-8) allowed two runs, one earned, in six innings and got the loss. He allowed just four hits, walked one and committed a balk in his fourth quality start of the season.

Jake Newberry, Tim Hill, recently promoted right-hander Jacob Barnes and Scott Barlow combined for three scoreless innings in relief of Sparkman.

“I thought the entire pitching staff pitched great,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “One unearned run and gave us a chance to win. But their pitching staff pitched great, too.”

Flaherty (6-6) held the Royals to three hits in seven innings. The only walk he issued was intentional (to Jorge Soler), and he struck out seven.

The Royals, who hit a franchise-record 22 home runs on their recent road trip, managed only one extra-base hit against Flaherty.

Second baseman Nicky Lopez (single, walk) and Soler (single, walk) reached base twice on a night when the Royals (43-77) struggled to find any offense.

The Cardinals grabbed a 2-0 lead through the first three innings.

They scored a run in the first without a hit. Dexter Fowler reached via a fielding error by third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert, advanced to second on a balk when Sparkman slipped in the middle of his delivery, advanced to third on a grounder to second and scored on a Paul Goldschmidt sacrifice fly.

“My spikes just went straight on the rubber when I was getting my load, and I just slipped,” Sparkman said. “I tried to keep going, did the best I could.”

The Cardinals added another run in the third on a two-out RBI single by Tommy Edman that allowed Lane Thomas to score from second base.

Yost was ejected in the top of the fifth inning after arguing that base runner interference should have been called on a play at first base. It marked the third ejection of the season for Yost.

Yost’s ejection came after what amounted to a swinging bunt by Kolten Wong got fielded by Royals catcher Meibrys Viloria. The throw to first didn’t get the runner, and Yost kept campaigning until first base umpire Greg Gibson tossed him from the game.

“I felt like Wong was in the grass and never in the 45-foot box,” Yost said. “The ball was down the first-base line and Viloria picked it up and threw wildly. I told the umpire and he said (Viloria) didn’t make a good throw. I’m like, ‘Yeah, because (Wong) was running on the grass so of course it’s going to affect his throw.

“It’s a play that’s called one way one day, and the other way the next day. In all fairness, they gave me every opportunity to stop arguing. It just (upset) me.”

The Royals put a runner in scoring position in the first inning on Hunter Dozier’s two-out double, but they didn’t have another hit until the sixth inning against Flaherty. After Dozier’s double, Flaherty intentionally walked Soler.

The next Royals base runner didn’t come until Lopez singled up the middle to start the sixth.

Whit Merrifield (1-for-4) crushed a ball that looked like a sure home run in the third inning, but it was caught on the warning track in left field. Unfortunately for Merrifield, the night belonged to Flaherty.

Flaherty has now pitched seven scoreless innings in each of his past three starts.

“I thought that was going to be gone for sure,” Merrifield said. “I’ve hit some here that have been so-so, but I thought that one was gone. So it’s part of playing in Kauffman.”

The teams conclude their two-game series on Wednesday night. Right-hander Brad Keller (7-12, 4.09) will start for the Royals, while the Cardinals list right-hander Dakota Hudson (10-6, 4.01) as their scheduled starter.

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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.