Their amazing start long behind them, the Kansas City Royals are now resembling the team that lost 100 games in 2002.
Their shocking 16-3 start put the Royals atop the AL Central, but the Royals have gone 11-23 since leave them a season-low one game above .500 for the second time this season. The Royals fell to 26-25 after Thursday’s 6-1 loss to Oakland, but on Friday Michael Tucker drove in five runs to lead Kansas City to an 11-6 win, ending a four-game losing streak and keeping the team above the break-even point.
On Saturday, though, the Royals suffered one of their heartbreaking defeats of the season as Eric Byrnes hit a three-run home run off closer Mike MacDougal with two outs. Angel Berroa, whose fielding error had allowed an unearned run earlier in the game, fumbled a potential double-play grounder with one out in the ninth with the Royals ahead 5-4.
“With young players, you have to be patient,” said Royals manager Tony Pena. “I will tell Angel that he was my shortstop today and he will be my shortstop tomorrow. The kid has been playing well but he had a tough day today.”
For the Royals to bounce back and win their first series since taking two of three from Baltimore from May 2-4, they’ll probably need to fair better than they have in the past against Zito, the 2002 Cy Young Award winner. In five starts against the Royals, Zito is 2-0 with a 1.99 ERA.
Winless in his last two starts—both against Minnesota—Zito is looking for his first win since a 11-2 victory over the lowly Detroit Tigers on May 15. Although he has no wins to show for it, Zito has been brilliant his last two games, allowing just eight hits in 15 innings.
The A’s are 2-3 on a 12-game roadtrip and will head to Florida and Philadelphia after Sunday’s game.
STANDINGS: Athletics - 2nd place, 5 GB, AL West. Royals - 2nd place, 3 1/2 GB, AL Central.
ATHLETICS PROBABLE STARTER: Zito (6-4, 2.72 ERA). In a 4-3 loss to the Twins on Tuesday, Zito breezed through the first seven innings, holding the Minnesota to one hit and striking out a season-high 10.
ROYALS PROBABLE STARTER: Chris George (5-4, 6.39 ERA). The lefty is coming off an abysmal outing in a 15-7 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Thursday. George lasted only 1 1-3 innings, giving up eight runs on six hits and three walks. The 23-year-old, who won two of his three prior decisions, is making his first career appearance against the Athletics.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Athletics - Erubial Durazo, .280 avg., 38 RBIs and 31 runs; Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada, 9 HRs; Chavez, 5 SBs. Royals - Mike Sweeney, .306 avg., and 30 RBIs; Sweeney and Carlos Beltran, 9 HRs; Raul Ibanez, 32 runs; Beltran, 8 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Athletics, 4-2.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Athletics - OF Byrnes has a career-long 21-game hitting streak. … A’s hitting coach Thad Bosley was called back to Oakland on Saturday for a meeting with general manager Billy Beane. Bosley has been quoted recently as saying he expected to be fired. Manager Ken Macha declined to speculate … The A’s have scored at least four runs in eight of their last nine. Royals - 1B Sweeney’s streak of reaching in 32 straight games is the current longest in the majors. … The Royals are 1-4 on a five-game homestand … OF Beltran is 2-for-16 (.125) against Zito with five strikeouts.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Athletics - 12-15 on the road; Royals - 14-10 at home.
INJURIES: Athletics - OF Jermaine Dye (knee), 15-day DL; LHP Micah Bowie (elbow), 15-day DL. Royals - INF Carlos Febles (finger), 15-day DL; OF Dee Brown (wrist), 15-day DL; RHP Miguel Asencio (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP RunelvysHernandez (elbow), 15-day DL; )