Kansas City Royals

Royals’ offense disappears again in 2-0 loss to the Nationals

Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Edinson Volquez throws during the first inning on Monday, May 2, 2016, at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Edinson Volquez throws during the first inning on Monday, May 2, 2016, at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. Kansas City Star

The reprieve lasted just 24 hours, one day of scoring before the Royals’ offense turned back to nothing on Monday night at Kauffman Stadium.

For the third time in four nights, the Royals were shut out, this time in a 2-0 loss to the Washington Nationals in the first game of a three-game home stand. The team was back at home, the stadium more familiar, but the template looked the same as it did on Friday and Saturday night in Seattle.

Up and down the lineup, the Royals’ core is struggling. As of Monday night, only Seattle and Tampa Bay had scored fewer runs in the American League. On Monday night, the Royals mustered just five hits against Washington left-hander Gio Gonzalez and a cavalry of relievers.

Gonzalez threw six scoreless innings, outdueling Royals starter Edinson Volquez. The Royals dropped to 13-12 on the season.

In the hours before the opening game of the series, Royals manager Ned Yost sat inside his office at Kauffman Stadium and pondered the first 24 games of his club’s season. The question hung in the air: How did he view his team’s opening month? The Royals began the season with eight victories in 10 games, lost nine of 13, then broke a five-game skid with a victory in Seattle on Sunday afternoon.

“It’s hard to answer a question like that when you’ve lost five out of your last six,” Yost said. “So, no, it’s not where we want to be, but we’re doing fine.”

Gonzalez needed a full 28 pitches to navigate through just four Royals batters in the bottom of the first inning. First baseman Eric Hosmer worked a walk with two outs and nobody on base. Kendrys Morales saw eight pitches before driving the ninth pitch — a 91 mph fastball — to deep left field. Off the bat, the ball appeared jolted and headed for the Royals’ bullpen in left field. But the baseball did not carry, dying in the cool night air, falling into the glove of left fielder Jayson Werth at the warning track.

From that moment, the Royals could do little to harass Gonzalez. And even when the opportunities came, the struggles appeared self-inflicted.

Lorenzo Cain managed a two-out single to left in the bottom of the third before advancing to second on Hosmer’s second walk. With Morales at the plate, Cain attempted to steal third base on the second pitch. He was thrown out by Washington’s Jose Lobaton, ending the inning. The decision to run was confounding.

Gonzalez required just 23 pitches to traverse the fourth and fifth innings. He neutralized the Royals’ offense with a 90 mph fastball and a healthy dosage of curveballs.

The Royals’ attack once again applied pressure in the sixth after Hosmer and Morales connected on back-to-back singles with one out. But Gonzalez stood firm, coaxing consecutive fly balls from Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez.

Gonzalez, 30, entered Monday with a 1.42 ERA in four starts this season. After throwing 102 pitches and allowing just four hits over seven scoreless innings, he had lowered the mark to 1.15.

The quiet production from the Kansas City offense nullified a solid effort from Volquez, who allowed two runs while pitching into the eighth inning.

The only damage came during the top of the first inning. Volquez paid for a leadoff walk to Nationals center field Michael Taylor. He was let down by a slight misplay by right fielder Paulo Orlando.

The inning began with Taylor drawing a walk and third baseman Anthony Rendon singling to center field. Volquez responded by striking out Bryce Harper — who had, in that moment, struck out five straight times for the second time in his career. But a moment later, Ryan Zimmerman followed by lashing a liner to right field. Orlando broke late on the ball and it carried over his head, scoring Taylor from third.

Second baseman Daniel Murphy, last seen facing the Royals in the World Series last fall, made the score 2-0 on a ground-out to first base. With sharper defense in right field, the Nationals could have been limited to a lone run. Instead, Volquez was on the hook for two, and he appeared determined to make up for the early nicks.

He lasted into the eighth inning, tossing zeros on the scoreboard and finishing with seven strikeouts while throwing 114 pitches. In the end, the offense could not support its workhorse.

Washington AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Taylor cf

3

1

0

0

1

1

.184

Rendon 3b

4

1

1

0

0

0

.240

Harper rf

4

0

1

0

0

2

.271

Zimmerman 1b

4

0

2

1

0

1

.234

Murphy 2b

4

0

3

1

0

0

.382

Werth lf

4

0

0

0

0

2

.203

Drew dh

3

0

0

0

0

2

.111

Heisey ph-dh

1

0

0

0

0

1

.261

Lobaton c

3

0

1

0

1

0

.182

Espinosa ss

4

0

1

0

0

1

.192

Totals 34

2

9

2

2

10

Kansas City AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Escobar ss

4

0

1

0

0

0

.234

Cain cf

4

0

1

0

0

2

.231

Hosmer 1b

2

0

1

0

2

1

.337

Morales dh

4

0

1

0

0

1

.217

Gordon lf

3

0

0

0

0

0

.205

S.Perez c

4

0

0

0

0

0

.241

Infante 2b

4

0

0

0

0

1

.256

Colon 3b

3

0

0

0

0

0

.188

Orlando rf

3

0

1

0

0

0

.273

Totals 31

0

5

0

2

5

Washington

200

000

000

2

9

0

Kansas City

000

000

000

0

5

0

LOB—Washington 7, Kansas City 8. 2B—Zimmerman 2 (5), Murphy (9), Escobar (3). RBIs—Zimmerman (8), Murphy (13). SB—Taylor (4). CS—Harper (2), Cain (2). DP—Kansas City 1.

Washington

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

ERA

Gonzalez W, 2-1

6

4

0

0

2

1

1.15

Solis H, 2

1

0

0

0

0

0

2.46

Kelley H, 2

 1/3

1

0

0

0

1

0.00

O.Perez H, 4

 2/3

0

0

0

0

2

2.70

Papelbon S, 9-10

1

0

0

0

0

1

2.38

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

ERA

Volquez L, 3-2

7 2/3

7

2

2

1

7

3.13

Duffy

1 1/3

2

0

0

1

3

3.38

Inherited runners-scored—O.Perez 1-0. HBP—Gonzalez (Gordon). T—3:09. A—32,394 (37,903).

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