KC Royals close out season with 9-2 loss to Guardians. Heasley endured a bumpy outing

The curtain came down on the Kansas City Royals’ season with a loss on the road to the AL Central Division champion Cleveland Guardians on Wednesday afternoon.

The loss sends the Royals into the offseason with a sour taste in their mouths and uncertainty looming in light of a recent major change atop the baseball operations department: the firing of president Dayton Moore and ascension of general manager J.J. Picollo to his new post as the organization’s top decision-maker for baseball matters.

The Royals’ pitching will undoubtedly be a focus of the offseason in one manner or another — free agency, the trade market and player development could all be factors. And the 2022 season came to an end with another young pitcher taking his lumps.

Royals right-hander Jonathan Heasley gave up six runs, including four in the first inning, in a 9-2 loss to the Guardians in front of an announced 12,983 at Progressive Field in Cleveland. The playoff-bound Guardians (92-70) won the six-game series with Wednesday’s victory.

While they avoided a 100-loss season, the Royals (65-97) finished in last place in the AL Central behind the Detroit Tigers. They went a MLB-worst 26-55 on the road.

That came on the heels of a 74-88 record and fourth-place finish in the division in 2021.

The Royals scored both of their runs via solo home runs, one each by rookie outfielder Kyle Isbel (1 for 3, walk) and rookie first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino (2 for 4).

Pasquantino, one of 14 Royals players who made their major-league debuts this season, finished the season with 10 home runs in 72 games in the majors. Pasquantino slashed .295/.383/.450 for the year, with more walks (35) than strikeouts (34).

Rookie infielder Bobby Witt Jr., one of four players who spent the entire season on the Royals’ active roster, went 1 for 4. He entered the day leading all major-league rookies in extra-base hits (57), RBIs (80) and stolen bases (30).

On Monday, Witt became just the fifth rookie in MLB history with at least 20 home runs and 30 stolen bases, joining Mike Trout (2012), Devon White (1987), Mitchell Page (1977) and Tommie Agee (1966).

Royals catcher and seven-time All-Star Salvador Perez did not play in the club’s final four games due to thumb soreness. He came out of Saturday’s game after hitting a seventh-inning home run. Perez had surgery on the thumb earlier this season.

Heasley (4-10) gave up all four first-inning runs with two outs. All nine hitters in the Guardians’ starting lineup came to the plate in the frame. He also gave up runs in the second and third innings. He didn’t have a scoreless inning until the fourth.

Heasley allowed six runs on nine hits and two walks in five innings. He struck out two.

Royals relievers Carlos Hernández (1 2/3 innings, two runs) and Luke Weaver (1 1/3 innings, one run) each also allowed runs.

The Royals won’t play a game again until their spring training exhibition opener in Arizona on February 24, 2023. They’ll open the 2023 regular season at Kauffman Stadium on March 30, 2023.