Royals' manager: 'We need to hit better'

5/16/2014

By RUSTIN DODD

By RUSTIN DODD

The Kansas City Star

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (MCT) — Ned Yost sat against the wall of the Royals' dugout on late Friday afternoon, assessing the first 40 games of a baseball season.

"We need to hit better," Yost said.

In five words, Yost had encapsulated six weeks of .500 baseball and offered a rather cutting prophecy for the night ahead. Another quiet performance at Kauffman Stadium. Another offensive no-show in a 4-0 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

The Royals dipped to 20-21 on the season while falling to 2-19 in games in which they score three runs or less. That last number is rather damning, of course, and Yost admitted as much on Friday afternoon.

"You look at our record when we score three runs or less," Yost said, "that stuff can't happen."

It happened again on Friday on a chilly May night in Kansas City. This time, it was Orioles starter Chris Tillman who kept the Royals' offense in check, allowing just five hits while throwing 117 pitches.

It was his first career shutout.

The Royals stood pat on a league-low 18 homers. After a leadoff double from Norichika Aoki in the bottom of the first, they rarely pieced together any offensive threats.

Earlier in the day, Yost had proceeded to list what had gone to plan during the season's first 40 games: The defense, of course. The starting pitching. The bullpen. If the Royals could hit this poorly through 40 games — and still be at .500 — Yost reasoned that this would bode well for the rest of the summer.

One year ago, the Royals had also started 20-20 in their first 40 games. Then they promptly lost nine of their next 10 during a May faceplant. If they could avoid such a meltdown, maybe they could make another summer run.

"If we could have stayed at .500 through this stretch (last season)," Yost said, "we would have been in the playoffs. Because this team is going to get hot like it did last year."

But for another night, the script was similar. The offensive woes were too crippling to overcome a bounce-back effort from starter Jeremy Guthrie, who allowed four runs and eight hits in eight innings. Guthrie, who threw 116 pitches, threw a lifeline to an overtaxed bullpen. But he may have stayed in just a batter or two too long. Baltimore first baseman Chris Davis rocketed a solo homer into the right-field bullpen in the top of the eighth, pushing the lead to 4-0.

Right-handed reliever Casey Coleman, called up earlier in the day, pitched a scoreless ninth in his Royals debut.

Guthrie had breezed through his first three innings, allowing just a single base hit. But he ran into trouble in the top of the fourth after a couple of errant throws.

Third baseman Manny Machado began the inning by hitting a soft chopper to Guthrie, who made an athletic diving stop before throwing wild to first. Machado chugged to second base, and then advanced to third on a wild pitch.

Guthrie retired center fielder Adam Jones on a groundout before walking Chris Davis on a borderline 3-2 pitch that appeared to tail back to the inside corner.

The call proved crucial when Nelson Cruz chopped a single over the head of first baseman Eric Hosmer, who was playing in with Davis on first.

Machado scored on the RBI single, and the Orioles made the score 2-0 when the Royals couldn't turn two on Steve Clevenger's chopper to second.

The Orioles tacked on another run in the sixth before Davis' booming home run. But that was all insurance. In the end, Baltimore just needed one.

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