KANSAS CITY, Mo. (TNS) — The adjustments to the lineup constitute more than a simple reshuffling of the order. They're wholesale changes, orchestrated by Royals manager Ned Yost to spark a team on the wrong side of the Mendoza Line over the past two weeks.
But they couldn't wake a scuffling offense. Neither could a pair of dates against the worst pitching staff in the National League.
The Cincinnati Reds left Kauffman Stadium with a 7-0 win Wednesday, the latest staff to silence the Royals' offense. They swept a two-game interleague series, allowing only one run across 19 innings.
Royals starter Jason Hammel tossed 71/3 innings, the initial six without allowing a run. Reds outfielder Adam Duvall supplied a grand slam in the ninth to put the game away.
And for the Royals in 2018, particularly in June, so it's gone.
The Royals (22-46) have 23 runs in 12 games in June. The only threat Wednesday arrived in the eighth, with Mike Moustakas serving as a potential tying run with two on and two out. A lineout to centerfield concluded the threat.
The latest arm to shut them down was Reds starter Tyler Mahle, who began the evening with a 4.33 earned run average. Mahle skated through 61/3 innings before turning the game over to the bullpen. The Reds have the worst collective earned run average in the National League, that number creeping toward 5.00.
For the second consecutive night, the struggles of the Royals offense stole the headline from a superb outing on the mound. Pitching into the eighth, Hammel allowed three runs, two of them earned. He was still shy of matching the outing one night earlier from Royals right-hander Ian Kennedy, who departed after eight shutout innings but also finished without a victory.
The topic of Hammel led Yost's pregame meeting with the media Wednesday, a group of reporters inquiring about the key to the right-hander's recent improvement.
"Command," Yost said, followed by a blunt stare. Asked to expand, Yost added one word. "It's 'command,' " he said.
Hammel threw 94 pitches Wednesday, and 65 of them were strikes. He recorded at least one out in the eighth inning for the first time since April 20.
The Reds finally interrupted the encore starting pitchers' duel in the seventh. Shortstop Jose Peraza doubled to lead off the inning and scored on a Scooter Gennett ground ball that snuck under Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar's glove. Gennett scored on a fielder's choice. The Royals made two errors in the inning.
Whit Merrifield led off the game with a single, and it stood as the Royals' lone hit until Merrifield returned to the plate in the sixth and supplied a double down the third-base line. He and Jorge Soler combined for four of the Royals' five hits.
On a night in which the offense was lifeless, Royals left fielder Alex Gordon's defense was anything but. In the fifth inning, Gordon threw out Reds catcher Curt Casali from the warning track. It was his fifth outfield assist of the year. One batter later, he dove head first to take away a base hit from Billy Hamilton.