The Dodgers finally encountered something as hot as they've been — Kauffman Stadium in the afternoon August sun.
At 90 degrees with oppressive humidity, the air was as thick and sticky as any signature tomato-based barbecue sauce in this beef and pork-centric Midwestern city.
The Dodgers’ 12-game winning streak — one short of their longest since moving to Los Angeles in 1958 — died on the vine, the Royals salvaging the finale of the three-game series, 4-0, Sunday in front of 18,481 fans, most of whom scurried to seats in the shade.
The hot hand was provided by Brady Singer, a third-year Royals right-hander who gave up only a single by Chris Taylor in six scoreless innings. Singer's ERA over his last six starts fell to 1.64, and he received a standing ovation after striking out Max Muncy to end the sixth on his 102nd pitch.
No wonder. Singer (6-4) silenced Dodgers bats that scored 21 runs in lopsided wins Friday and Saturday and had outscored opponents 91-31 during the winning streak.
"He’s really good with that two-seamer inside to a lefty, he makes you cognizant of that and it opens up his sliders away," Freddie Freeman said.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts called off pregame batting practice for a second day in a row to keep his players out of the heat as long as possible. They hit in an indoor cage instead.
"We know there is no correlation between on-field batting practice and production on the field," Roberts said. "So our guys have bought into that and actually have really enjoyed days when they can show and go."
Except when it's little show and no go. The Dodgers threatened only in the fifth when Joey Gallo walked and Taylor singled with none out, and in the eighth when Mookie Betts doubled with one out and Freeman reached on an error and stole second with two out.
Singer pitched out of the jam in the fifth and closer Scott Barlow struck out Muncy to end the eighth. The ninth was a breeze for Barlow, marking the fifth time this season the Dodgers have been shut out and the first since June 27 at Colorado.
"We don’t like getting shut out, plain and simple," Freeman said, "but we still won the series, you’ve got to look at it like that sometimes. We’ve got a tough series ahead in Milwaukee, so we just have to turn the page."
The Royals didn't put up crooked numbers on the scoreboard but scored single runs in the first, third and sixth innings against left-hander Tyler Anderson (13-2), primarily shooting ground balls and blooping fly balls to the middle of the field.
The Royals have 12 rookies on their roster, an extraordinarily high number. Those portable scouting reports scribbled on index cards Dodgers fielders glance at between batters? Intel on the KC Kiddie Corps might simply have read NEI — not enough information.
A particularly impressive rookie, first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino, homered in the eighth against Craig Kimbrel after hitting an RBI single in the third and a double to lead off the sixth.
"You look around and it’s almost a rookie at every position," Dodgers second baseman Gavin Lux said. "They kind of came up together it seems like. I think this is fun for them to be part of and they will be pretty good in a couple years."
And for one blistering day in 2022, they were better than the Dodgers, who fell one win short of tying the record of 13 consecutive wins since the team relocated to L.A.
The Dodgers won 13 in a row in 1962 when they won 102 games but finished second in the National League to the San Francisco Giants. In 1965, they won their last 13 games in September to overcome the Giants, winning the pennant and going on to defeat the Minnesota Twins in the World Series.
The streak that ended Sunday triggered no such drama. The Dodgers are 79-34, hold a 16-game lead over the San Diego Padres in the NL West and have four more victories than any other team in baseball.
One loss — even getting shut out — didn't change the calculus for Roberts.
"The thing that stands out most about this group is just the intent to show up each day to win a ballgame," he said. "It’s as good a team offense as I’ve seen, and as far as preventing runs, whether it be the starter or the guy coming out of the 'pen, they’ve all done a fantastic job."
Dustin May made his fifth and final rehab start in triple A on Sunday night, striking out 10 and giving up only a solo home run in five innings. Roberts said May should return to the Dodgers’ rotation when they host the Marlins this weekend.
The right-hander with the mop of red hair has a 1.89 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 19 innings over five rehab starts. He posted a 2.74 ERA and struck out 35 over 23 innings for the Dodgers in 2021 before undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Brusdar Graterol followed May in the game between Dodgers affiliate Oklahoma City and Round Rock and retired the side in order, striking out one in his second rehab appearance. Graterol has missed five weeks because of right shoulder inflammation.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.