Royals shut out, 3-0, by hapless Astros

5/27/2014

BY BLAIR KERKHOFF

BY BLAIR KERKHOFF

The Kansas City Star

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (MCT) — With the season barely two weeks old, a visit to Houston provided needed relief. The Royals had just been swept by the Minnesota Twins, but they found their rhythm against the Astros, the American League's doormats.

A sweep there put the season back on track. Now, after a 3-0 decision on Tuesday, the Astros are a victory away from returning the favor.

Once again, Royals bats largely remained silent. The home run drought has reached eight games, and Tuesday marked the third time in three weeks they've been shutout. Twice at Kauffman.

Five singles were all the Royals mustered against Collin McHugh and a pair of relievers, and the meek attack — the last 14 Royals were retired in order --meant a solid performance by Jeremy Guthrie went wasted.

On a night when he surrendered one run in six innings, Guthrie was the hard-luck loser. But was the middle of the only fireworks of the night for the Royals. It happened in the sixth when manager Ned Yost got ejected.

Guthrie plunked Marc Krauss with two outs. The next hitter, Robbie Grossman, fell behind 1-2 and Guthrie believed he'd thrown strike three. But umpire Kerwin Danley disagreed. Grossman singled.

So did Alex Pressley and suddenly after a quiet start to the frame the bases were full of Astros.

The gathering at the mound wasn't led by pitching coach Dave Eiland, which likely would have been the case with no Royal warming in the bullpen. Typically, a pitching change brings out the manager.

But Yost wasn't there to pull Guthrie. He stood on the hill and chatted with his starter until Danley arrived to adjourn the meeting. Yost walked a couple of steps with the home plate ump and whatever he exchanged was quick and direct. Danley quickly gave him the thumb.

The strike zone weariness may have had its origins in the fourth inning. Guthrie served up successive one-out free passes to Dexter Fowler and Jason Castro, with ball four on Castro a full count border line call.

Fowler came around to score on Matt Dominguez's single through the middle.

Meanwhile, Royals hitters weren't as fortunate negotiating the strike zone against McHugh, who hadn't won a major league game (0-8) until this season.

McHugh, who pitched for the Rockies and Mets last season, dazzled the Royals with an effective change-up. He struck out nine in seven innings while improving to 3-3.

The Astros broke it open in the eighth against reliever Tim Collins, who yielded a double to Castro to open the inning.

Castro was on third when Grossman fouled off a suicide squeeze bunt attempt.

No matter, the Astros ran it again. This time, Collins skipped a pitch that bounced high and behind catcher Sal Perez and Castro scooted home. The play was ruled a wh Alex Pressley added a sacrifice fly, and given how the Royals were swinging the bats, a three-run cushion was more than enough.

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