Nightmare homestand continues Royals' tumble

Lynn Worthy
Kansas City Star (TNS)
Kris Bubic (50) of the Kansas City Royals walks off the mound after being pulled during a game against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday, May 8, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri. [Jamie Squire/Getty Images/TNS]

One week has made a world of difference in the Kansas City Royals' outlook, and it hasn't been for the better after a nightmare homestand and amid an ongoing eight-game losing streak.

The Royals (16-17) had a  break in their schedule Monday before starting another road trip Tuesday in Detroit.

They are set to play seven games in six days during the trip, including a doubleheader on Friday in Chicago against a White Sox club that just trounced them at Kauffman Stadium.

The Royals entered last week with the best record in the majors after a 6-3 road trip. They appeared poised to assert their place among the top teams in the AL Central Division, with seven consecutive games at home against division foes as part of a 16-game stretch entirely against AL Central opponents.

Instead, the Royals went 0-for-7 and extended their slide to eight games. They've now lost nine of their last 10.

"Part of the conversation that I just keep having and I had again with the guys (Saturday) is just a reminder that this was just a really bad week," Royals manager Mike Matheny said after Sunday's game. "We're going to have some really good weeks. It's not our last bad one. It's just how do we continue to play the game. Try not to let it linger too much. It's hard not to let them go, though, when they all stack up."

What was going so right then, that now seems to be going so very wrong? Winning ways

Applying pressure: The Royals put the ball in play with enormous regularity. Royals hitters piled up some big strikeout totals in the first week two weeks of the season but had the fewest strikeouts in the majors from April 13-May 2 (6.6 strikeouts/game, 5.4 plate appearances per strikeout).

Out of 85 players who qualified for the batting title in the American League, Whit Merrifield (third) and Nicky Lopez (fifth) ranked among the leaders in plate appearances per strikeout.

Finishing kick: The Royals had a streak of 60 consecutive victories when leading after the seventh inning, the second-longest such streak in franchise history. Their bullpen had been very strong, and six different players recorded saves.

Clutch when close: The Royals won their first six one-run games of the season, including a pair of walk-offs delivered by All-Star catcher Salvador Perez. Getting it started: Royals starters dominated during a four-game series sweep of the Detroit Tigers to start their previous road trip. The starters went 4-0 with a 1.90 ERA, 29 strikeouts and four walks in that series.

Losing their way Scoring drought: The Royals went 28 consecutive scoreless innings during a stretch against the Cleveland Indians and White Sox this past week. They've batted .160 with runners in scoring position since April 30 and have two just hits in their last 29 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

Invincible no more: The Royals had allowed just one team to garner a come-from-behind win at their expense prior to their recent homestand. They lost four such games during their seven-game stretch at home, including the first three against the Indians. The Royals also saw the end of their streak of wins when leading after seven innings.

Penned in: Right-hander Jakob Junis moved to the bullpen due in part to injuries to Jesse Hahn and Kyle Zimmer. Junis had pitched well out of the bullpen early in the season before moving to the rotation, where he'd also been impressive (1-1 record, 3.80 ERA, 24 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings). However. Junis has allowed seven runs on seven hits (three home runs) and a walk in three innings over his last three relief appearances.

Rough start for the rookie: Left-hander Daniel Lynch made his MLB debut and took Junis' spot in the starting rotation in the first game of the homestand. In his first two starts in the majors, one of which lasted just two-thirds of an inning, Lynch has allowed 11 runs on 11 hits and five walks in 5 1/3 innings. He has struck out just three during that span.