Holding a five-run lead with two outs in the ninth inning on Wednesday, the Kansas City Royals seemed primed to finally end their nine-game losing streak.
One inning later, they were again at what felt like rock bottom, with a contentious clubhouse full of players left wondering how far they still have left to fall.
After a dramatic meltdown sent the Royals to their fourth double-digit losing streak in the last four seasons, Kansas City will try to avoid an 11th straight loss Thursday, when it closes a three-game series against the visiting Minnesota Twins.
The Royals (21-32) could hardly have imagined things getting worse after they were no-hit by Boston’s Jon Lester last Monday in a 7-0 loss. But that defeat started Boston’s four-game sweep, and Kansas City followed that by losing four in a row in Toronto.
The two losses against the Twins may have been the most deflating. The Royals rallied with three runs in the ninth inning to tie Tuesday’s game, but went on to lose 4-3 in 12 innings.
On Wednesday, they were the ones blowing a late lead. After starter Zack Greinke threw eight solid innings and the offense totaled a season-high 16 hits, Kansas City led 8-3 with one Minnesota runner on base and two outs in the ninth. But four more Twins hits - capped by Craig Monroe’s pinch-hit, three-run home run - tied the game.
Minnesota (27-25) won 9-8 on Justin Morneau’s home run on the first pitch of the 10th, with both homers coming off reliever Joel Peralta. After the game, outfielder Jose Guillen spoke to reporters in the form of a profanity-laced tirade in front of his teammates.
“Too many babies here,” Guillen said. “They don’t know how to play the game and win the game right, the way it’s supposed to be played. And that’s the problem here. Now I know why this organization’s been losing for a while. Now I know.”
The last-place Royals now possess the longest losing streak in baseball this season, having been outscored 62-27 in the 10 losses. But that’s nothing new for the long-struggling franchise - Kansas City lost 19 straight games in 2005 before stumbling to separate skids of 11 and 13 in 2006.
The 11th loss of the 19-game slide came after they blew a five-run lead in the ninth inning at home to Cleveland, eventually allowing 11 runs in the inning.
Luke Hochevar, whose loss to Lester and the Red Sox started the streak, will try to make sure this year’s streak doesn’t make it as far. The rookie has walked 10 in 12 innings during the skid, losing both his starts and allowing 12 runs - eight earned.
Hochevar (3-4, 4.54 ERA) is 2-1 with a 2.37 ERA in three home starts this year, tossing six shutout innings against Detroit in his last outing at Kauffman Stadium on May 14. But he gave up a grand slam to Toronto’s Brad Wilkerson in the first inning Saturday, as the Royals went on to lose 6-0.
The Twins are looking to finish a six-game road trip 5-1. While Guillen criticized the Royals’ players, Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire praised his team’s resiliency after his team clinched its fourth straight series victory against Kansas City.
“It’s a fun way to come back and get a win, I can tell you that,” Gardenhire said. “It says a lot about the character of the guys getting after it and never quitting. I know how tough it is on the other side.”
Right-hander Kevin Slowey will try to take advantage of his reeling opponent. Slowey (1-4, 4.21) started his team’s current trip with his first win of the season, throwing six scoreless innings in a 9-4 win against the Tigers on Friday.