February 3, 2023

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'We've got to get better': Royals seek turnaround

4 min read
Swept by Cleveland, K.C. ends tough road trip 2-7

CLEVELAND — A feeling all too familiar settled over the visiting clubhouse at Progressive Field on Wednesday afternoon. The Royals were swept out of Cleveland with a 4-0 defeat by the Guardians, as the losses keep mounting for the team with the worst record (16-33) in baseball.

“It continues to be tough,” manager Mike Matheny said. “We’ve had some really hard losses. Every one of them now, they just continue to pile on the frustration in that room.”

The Royals are heading back to Kansas City after a 2-7 road trip with the onus on them to leave what happened on the road behind. But the task won’t get easier from here, as the club will welcome the Astros and Blue Jays, likely playoff contenders, to Kauffman Stadium this weekend and next week. 

Wednesday marked the end of a stretch in which the Royals played 26 games in 25 days, including two doubleheaders. As the calendar flips and they enter June, Kansas City is desperate to turn things around, after going 9-20 last month — matching the second-most losses in the month of May in franchise history, (they went 8-21 in May of 2006).

Right now, Kansas City is staring at a 100-loss season if things don’t turn around in year No. 5 of their rebuild. While the organization expected ups and downs this year, it also expected to improve. Two months into the season, the results show a different story.

“We’ve got to get better. That’s all there is to it,” Matheny said. “That’s us collectively. Each guy, do your part. Be honest and figure out what we can improve. That’s the only way you can get through any hard time.”

The Royals have yet to put together all the pieces this season, with solid starting pitching, a lockdown bullpen and an ignited offense all firing at once. They’ve seen flashes of each at different times, with the pitching solid in the early part of the season and the offense starting to heat up over the last couple of weeks.

But rarely are the positives found in the same game.

On Wednesday, Brad Keller (1-6) allowed four runs in six innings. The Guardians only whiffed on three of Keller’s pitches, struck out once, and got timely hits when there were runners on base. Keller walked three, including two leadoff free passes — both of which led to runs in the fourth and fifth innings.

The Royals offense, meanwhile, struck out eight times in the first five innings against rookie Konnor Pilkington, and they left nine on base while going just 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

“He had enough stuff to win,” Matheny said of Keller. “Obviously, we got to have some offense. We had some chances but weren’t able to come through. If you strike out that many times, it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be a long day.”

“Whenever you get down early, you feel a little more frustration based on how it happened,” Keller added. “But we have full faith in this team. We’re going to bounce back out of this. I thought we had great opportunities to score during the game, had all the faith in the world in our offense and defense, all game and all year. We’re going to get out of this and be just fine.”

As the losses pile up, so does the frustration. That tends to lead to players trying to do too much on the field, to be the ones who break the team out of this funk. Catcher/team leader Salvador Perez admitted that he’s tried to do that, and it hasn’t led to success: The veteran slugger is slashing .187/.227/.355 as the Royals’ cleanup hitter.

“Myself, yes, I feel like I have to do better,” Perez said. “To help my team to win. I’m leaving guys in scoring position, guy on first or second, so I need to start to produce for the team and help the team win. … I don’t get frustrated because I’m hitting .188. I just need to be more open, try to hear from the hitting coach, try to see what they want me to change. Especially now that I’m struggling a little bit.”

Perez emphasized that the season is still young, with four months to turn things around.

“I believe in my team,” Perez said. “I believe that we’re going to get better. I believe that we can compete. It’s just a tough situation right now. I think we’re going to get out of this.”

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