KANSAS CITY, Mo. (TNS) — Over the past month, Royals starter Jason Hammel had developed better command of his pitches, a topic of conversation he frequented when crediting a string of resurgence.
But the command was gone Tuesday.
The losing streak, on the other hand, rolls on.
The Royals’ skid hit eight games Tuesday after the Rangers pounced on Hammel early and left Kauffman Stadium with a 4-1 win.
Hammel allowed all four runs in the initial three innings before settling in with three consecutive zeroes.
“Too little, too late,” he said. “I put our guys in a hole early.”
The Royals (22-51) have lost 14 of 15 games, a stretch defined most aptly by their lack of production at the plate. They are hitting .188 in June, scoring only 2.1 runs per game in 17 outings this month. That left an early explosion from the Rangers insurmountable, especially with Cole Hamels in cruise control on the mound. Texas (31-44) scored twice in the third — an output that would have been larger if not for second baseman’s Whit Merrifield’s two-out diving stop to save a pair of runs — and followed it with two more in the fourth.
Hammel (2-8) walked four and allowed nine hits over 5 2/3 innings before handing the ball to the bullpen. He did not have a clean inning in the game and threw just 55 of his 94 pitches for strikes.
“I thought it was a grind for him tonight, the first three innings especially,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He was really fighting command there, especially in the second and the third.”
This after his most promising stretch of the season. Hammel posted a 2.56 earned run average over his previous five starts. He walked only five in those games, striking out 28.
“I put traffic on with (four) walks,” Hammel said. “That’s the part that bugs me.”
A day after trading reliever Kelvin Herrera to the Nationals — continuing the rebuild process — the wait to see who will get the first chance to serve as his replacement prolongs another day. The bullpen was a bright spot, though, with Tim Hill, Brandon Maurer and Burch Smith combining for 3 1/3 shutout innings. They allowed only two baserunners.
Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar's consecutive playing streak at shortstop has been going to for some time, but with the Adalberto Mondesi's recent call up the streak at shortstop might come to an end.
The defense aided the pitching staff — Merrifield’s diving stop in the second; Alcides Escobar and Alex Gordon threw out runners trying to score; and Salvador Perez pegged a would-be base stealer, unleashing the throw from his knees. Gordon has seven outfield assists this season.
The Rangers asked Keone Kela to finish off the encouraging start from Hamels, who improved to 4-6. Hamels yielded only an unearned run over his seven innings, deftly working out of trouble twice. Merrifield advanced to third with nobody out in the opening inning but was left stranded.
Royals outfielder Rosell Herrera hit a two-out single in the fifth to score Gordon, a run that felt like a consolation prize after the first two batters in the inning reached base. Herrera had half of the Royals’ four hits, all singles.
Hamels struck out seven and allowed seven baserunners, three of them free passes.
“He mixes it up really well,” Merrifield said. “His percentages of pitches in counts are almost identical, so there’s no tendencies to him. He mixes everything up.”
The Rangers yanked rookie left-hander Yohander Mendez from his projected start in Wednesday’s series finale, a punishment levied for breaking a team rule, general manager Jon Daniels said, according to reports from multiple Texas outlets. The Rangers did not disclose the nature of the violation. Right-hander Austin Bibens-Dirkx will start Wednesday.