Injury to Andrew Benintendi compounds reeling Kansas City Royals' issues

Benintendi goes on injured list with broken rib

By Lynn Worthy
The Kansas City Star (TNS)
The Kansas City Royals placed outfielder Andrew Benintendi (16) on the injured list Monday with a broken rib.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Royals found themselves stuck in an self-perpetuating cycle of offensive futility in key moments on Monday night. At the same time, their starting pitcher seemingly paid for every mistake he made. The cumulative result wasn't pretty.

After the Royals placed left fielder Andrew Benintendi — one of their top offensive contributors — on the injured list because of a broken rib, presumptive ace pitcher Brad Keller scuffled through five innings and allowed seven runs on the way to a 10-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers in front of an announced 11,910 at Kauffman Stadium.

The loss marked the fourth in a row and ninth in the last 10 games for the Royals (30-35), who opened a six-game home stand.

The Royals were 1 for 14 with runners in scoring position and left 13 men on base Monday night.

"You're talking about four out of the first six innings we had opportunities to do something big," Royals manager Mike Matheny said. "Whether it's situational hitting or it's the big hit, both of those played (into it) again. There's no quick fix. We've just got to keep fighting until we get it going in a good direction."

The Royals are hitting 2 for 38 with runners in scoring position dating back to the ninth inning of Thursday's victory.

"I thought our guys early on did a nice job using the opposite field, getting deep in counts, letting the ball travel," Matheny said. "Then we get opportunities to make something big happen and it's either we foul off the pitch we can do damage with or else it ends up being a count where we chase.

"Hitting is hard, but I believe in our guys. In the long haul, we're going to be much more productive than what we're doing right now. It's just a bad run."

Whit Merrifield and Jorge Soler each went 3 for 4 and both had a walk and a double apiece. Kelvin Gutierrez (2 for 4) and Hanser Alberto (1 for 4) also hit doubles. Salvador Perez, Alberto and Soler also drove in runs.

The Royals collected 14 hits in the game despite scoring just three runs. The last time they had 14 hits in a nine-inning game and so few runs was in a 3-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox on June 30, 1994.

"Early on, I think it's a matter of catching some bad luck in those situations," Merrifield said of the struggles with runners in scoring position. "Then as it continues to progress and a couple more times come up that we still don't get the job done, guys start putting pressure on themselves in those situations. When you hit like that, it takes you away from your approach. It's really hard to be successful when you're doing that."

Keller (6-6) gave up eight hits, including one home run, and one walk in five innings. Six of his seven runs allowed were earned. He struck out five, but his rocky start forced the Royals to play from behind for the entire game.

Keller, who was saddled with his first loss in a month in his previous start against the Angels, dug a hole early on Monday night.

He hit Tigers leadoff batter Robbie Grossman with the first pitch. Each of the first four batters reached and scored. Two reached on singles hit on the ground and one on a fielding error on a ground ball.

"I felt like at times I was missing in the zone and they were putting good swings on it," Keller said. "But for the most part I kept the ball on the ground. I felt like they just found holes. It seemed like one of those games. They're going to find holes. I got burned on a changeup (for a home run). Then in that last inning, I tried to go in and missed away, and got burned on that too."

Tigers starting pitcher Matthew Boyd, a left-hander, only pitched 2 1/3 innings due to left arm discomfort. The Royals trailed 4-0, but Boyd's early departure certainly looked like an opening they could exploit.

Right-hander Joe Jiménez took over with one out and runners on the corners with Perez coming to the plate for the second time. Perez struck out and Soler popped up to shortstop to end the inning.

After coming away empty-handed in the bottom of the third, the Royals watched the Tigers add on to the lead courtesy of a two-run home run by No. 9 hitter Willi Castro that made the score 6-0 in the fourth inning.

The Tigers tacked on a run in the fifth on a single, double and a sacrifice fly.

While Keller felt he saw some positive signs in his outing, he expressed frustration with not having positive results.

"It's tough to look at the positive," Keller said. "Talking to (pitching coach) Cal (Eldred), he said the same thing. He was like, 'I don't know what to say to you.' It's like well, obviously, something has got to change. We can't keep doing the same thing and expect different results. We've got to go out there and get better. So that's what we've got to go back to the drawing board and get better, look for the next one."