The Kansas City Royals’ scoring drought ended, but the losing streak marched on on Saturday night.
The Chicago White Sox chased Royals rookie left-hander Daniel Lynch before the end of the first inning. They unleashed an eight-run onslaught and placed a mountain of pressure on the recently-struggling Royals offense.
That eight-run head start proved more than adequate as the Royals lost the game 9-1 and the series in front of an announced 15,895 at Kauffman Stadium.
“It was a one-inning game, is what it looked like,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “It’s just hard to recover. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen one quite like that to be honest. It was just — everything was hit hard. That’s obviously a tough one to recover from.”
The loss extended the Royals’ losing streak to seven games. It dropped them to .500 at 16-16 after they’d entered the homestand with the best winning percentage in MLB.
On Sunday, the Royals will try to avoid a second consecutive series sweep. Veteran left-hander Mike Minor will pitch the finale of the three-game set for the Royals.
Carlos Santana reached base four times for the Royals in Saturday’s loss. He had two hits and two walks. Jarrod Dyson tripled and scored the Royals’ lone run.
Lynch, the top pitching prospect in the Royals’ farm system and regarded as one of the top prospects in all of baseball, gave up the eight runs on seven hits and one walk. Lynch recorded two outs, the second on a Yasmani Grandal sacrifice fly, but then allowed four consecutive hits including a two-run home run before Matheny called upon Tyler Zuber to mop up the first inning.
After Zuber got the Royals through the first inning, left-hander Kris Bubic — a former roommate and draft classmate of Lynch — took over and provided a bright spot.
Bubic, who’d debuted in the Royals starting rotation last season, tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings of relief.
“I put our bullpen in a terrible spot, and then Bubic picked us up big time,” Lynch said. “That was huge, then Wade (Davis) to come in and (Jake Brentz). That’s what I feel the worst about. What happened to me is whatever, but I put the team in a really bad spot. Kris was huge to come and pick us up. I think that’s going to be a big lift for days to come.”
The White Sox sent 13 men to the plate in the first inning, each probably more eager than his predecessor. They scored eight runs on nine hits, including the first home run of the season for Danny Mendick.
The inning featured a little bit of everything, offensively. The White Sox tallied five singles, two doubles, a triple, a home run, a walk, a sacrifice fly, and a pair of fielder’s choices. Leadoff hitter Tim Anderson and No. 2 hitter Nick Madrigal each had two singles in the inning, while Yoan Moncada had a double, a single and three RBIs in the inning.
Lynch threw 24 of his 34 pitches for strikes. He faced 10 batters, and he got ahead with first-pitch strikes on 8 of those 10.
“I think I was just in the zone too much, with two strikes especially,” Lynch said. “I felt like early in counts I made some really good pitches, and then late I just wasn’t putting them away. Maybe I’ll have to go back and look at the scouting report and look at some things, maybe some pitch decisions weren’t good. I think the bottom line was I was just in the zone far too much.”
It wasn’t as though White Sox hitters were jumping on one particular type of pitch. The first three batters — Anderson, Madrigal and Moncada — each had hits off different pitches.
Anderson singled to right field on a 97 mph fastball. Madrigal smacked a slider through the middle for a single. Moncada drove a changeup down the left field line for a two-run double.
The seven hits against Lynch were fairly evenly distributed between his fastball (three hits), slider (two hits) and changeup (two hits).
“You could almost tell anybody what pitch is coming and what location and still not have those kind of results,” Matheny said. “This guy has got really good stuff, and he’s got too good of stuff to get hit like that and it’s not going to happen. This was just one of those anomalies that I don’t have a great explanation for.”
The score remained 8-0 until the seventh inning when the Royals snapped their scoreless-innings streak at 28. Dyson tripled to right-center field — his second of the season — and scored on an RBI groundout by Whit Merrifield.
The White Sox tacked on a run with two outs in the ninth on a Yermin Mercedes RBI single.
“Here’s the deal,” Matheny said. “We’ve got some teams in this division that we have yet to earn the respect of by playing the kind of baseball that we can play. Our guys need to understand that I don’t even think we’ve seen us play the kind of baseball we can play yet.
“It doesn’t make anything different except that we’ve got a lot of work to do. Nobody’s going to give us anything in this league. We’ve got to keep working. We’ve got to keep fighting. We’ve got to keep believing in each other.”