The Kansas City Royals can get back to playing baseball without the glare of the national spotlight.
One day after ending the longest losing streak in franchise history, the Royals will close out a three-game series with the AL wild card-leading Oakland Athletics.
Kansas City pulled out a 2-1 victory on Saturday to avoid becoming just the seventh major league team since 1900 to lose 20 straight games. Mike Wood pitched five innings for the win and four relievers combined to allow two hits over the final four innings to complete the Royals’ first win since July 27.
After Bobby Crosby grounded out to end the game, the Royals charged out of the dugout, led by always-animated right-hander Jose Lima. They greeted closer Mike MacDougal on the mound and broke open the champagne in the clubhouse.
“This win is like winning a playoff game,” Lima said. “We’re a young team, we stuck together and took it like a man. It’s tough to stay tough, but we did it.”
Kansas City was two shy of matching the AL record of 21 straight losses set by the 1988 Baltimore Orioles. The Royals also don’t have to worry about matching the major league record of 23 straight defeats, set by Philadelphia in 1961.
“This game was so crazy,” Kansas City manager Buddy Bell said. “It’s probably one of the worst games we played in the whole streak. I told the guys after the game that they handled one of the toughest times ever in baseball. A young team faced TV and newspapers and everywhere they read they were scrutinized.
“I’m proud of them. It was tough, but the guys handled themselves with class.”
Starter Runelvys Hernandez will try to help make it two straight for the Royals when he takes the mound Sunday. Hernandez is 0-2 with a 9.95 ERA over his last four outings.
The 27-year-old right-hander will have to better than his last start against Oakland. Hernandez was tagged for seven runs and six hits in a season-low one inning in an 11-0 loss on Aug. 7.
The loss dropped Hernandez to 0-2 with a 12.00 ERA in three career outings against the A’s.
Oakland fell to 4-7 on a 12-game homestand with its fourth loss in five games. The A’s have managed a total of only 13 runs over the last five games.
Catcher Jason Kendall was hitless in five at-bats Saturday and is batting .200 over his last 17 games. Kendall has just one extra-base hit in his last 20 games.
The A’s have been disturbed about the recent struggles of usually reliable setup man Ricardo Rincon. The left-hander has a 9.00 ERA over his last 10 appearances and has pitched just once in the last 10 games.
“His last nine innings have been kind of rough,” Oakland manager Ken Macha said. “With that said, it’d be nice to get him in. After the game Wednesday, he stayed around and threw on the side, so he’s intense about getting his game tuned up.”