The Kansas City Royals are quickly losing ground in the race to the American League Wild Card Game, and the reason is clear: they aren’t scoring any runs.
Through Monday’s 12-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, the Royals haven’t plated a single base runner in a staggering 43 innings. They have lost five games over that stretch, including a gut-wrenching sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Indians, who have built a decisive lead in the AL Central. They have also struck out 32 times and allowed 35 runs.
Monday’s loss to Tampa Bay was especially bad. Royals starter Ian Kennedy gave up seven earned runs in less than three innings of work, and his team collected just two hits in the entire game, both courtesy of its best player, former All-Star Lorenzo Cain.
“There’s no explanation for it,” said manager Ned Yost, according to the Kansas City Star. “If there was, we would fix it. I can’t even make something up.”
The Royals offence hasn’t been merely bad — it’s reaching a historic level of ineptitude. They’re now just five innings away from tying the Major League record for most innings without scoring a run, currently shared by the 1906 Philadelphia Athletics and the 1968 Chicago Cubs. What’s more, the Rays pitcher scheduled for Tuesday’s game, Alex Cobb, delivered a scoreless start in his last outing, so Kansas City can’t be feeling too optimistic.
As if recording one of the most listless offensive stretches in baseball history weren’t embarrassing enough, the Royals could find themselves in a tremendously difficult position once the offseason rolls around. Much of the core that piloted them to back-to-back World Series appearances in 2014 and 2015 — Cain, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, Jason Vargas — will hit the free agent market this winter, and the small-market Royals will be hard-pressed to retain more than one or two of those players.
Kansas City is now three games adrift of a postseason spot, and they’re heading in the wrong direction. There’s a good chance the team will be shut out of October baseball for the second straight year, which would make general manager Dayton Moore’s decision to hold his cards and try for one more championship look like an epic miscalculation. With a 55-49 record at the trade deadline, the Royals had reason for optimism, but after going just 9-17 in their next 26 games, the front office probably wishes it had sold some of its big pieces for young talent.
Now, the team is facing a bleak future, one that lacks both fan favourite players and top prospects to inspire hope for the years to come. Former stars like Kennedy and Alex Gordon won’t do them any favours, and their minor league system was recently ranked by Bleacher Report as MLB’s second-worst.
If the Royals mishandle these next few months, a record-setting scoreless streak will be the least of their worries.