Thursday night in New York, the Yankees dropped the Royals by the score of 7-3 (box score). Kansas City lost three of the four games and, very quietly, they have now lost 12 of their last 16 games. They're now 16-18 overall and 6 1/2 games behind the idle White Sox in the AL Central.
Going 4-12 at any point in the season is usually not the result of any one problem, and that is true of these Royals. They recently had a stretch where they scored 11 runs in seven games, so the offense has had a hand in the slump. Predictably, they lost six of those games. The offense has come around a bit of late though; the Royals have scored 31 runs in their last six games.
The pitching, on the other hand, has not yet come around. In fact, it's only getting worse. The rotation in particular continues to struggle seemingly night after night. Thursday night, Ian Kennedy allowed seven runs in 6 1/3 innings against the Yankees, with five of the seven runs coming on three home runs. It was the fifth time in the last eight games the starter allowed at least five runs.
Take a look at what Kansas City's rotation has done during his ugly 4-12 stretch and over the 2016 season in general. It's not pretty at all.
|Royals during 4-12 stretch||4.83||7.12||1.69||6.3||5.1||2.4|
|Royals in 2016||5.29||4.90||1.47||7.6||4.5||1.5|
|AL Starter Averages||5.71||4.24||1.35||7.7||3.2||1.2|
Yikes. They're worse than average across the board for the season and abysmal at everything over the last 16 games. The starters aren't giving them length, so the bullpen is getting taxed, and they have the terrible combination of a lot of walks and a lot of home runs. That can lead to big innings in a hurry.
Early on Thursday the Royals placed two starters on the DL: Chris Young and Kris Medlen. They have been two of the biggest culprits. Young, who was so excellent as a swingman last year, has a 6.68 ERA (61 ERA+) and was averaging only 4.61 innings per start. Medlen had a 7.77 ERA (53 ERA+) with more walks (20) than strikeouts (18).
Getting Young and Medlen out of the rotation is going to be an instant help simply because it would be difficult for their replacements, Dillon Gee and Danny Duffy, to be any worse. Gee has been especially effective in long relief (158 ERA+) and isn't too far removed from some strong seasons with the Mets. He could give them a real boost.
Young and Medlen aren't the only problems though. Yordano Ventura has a 4.62 ERA (89 ERA+) with more walks (28) than strikeouts (26) in 37 innings. Kennedy had been very good up until Thursday, and Edinson Volquez has been solid (105 ERA+). The rotation behind Kennedy and Volquez has been a major liability.
The Royals showed last season you don't need a dominant starter to win the World Series, but let's not forget they traded for Johnny Cueto at the deadline to provide the rotation a true ace, and he gave them some ace-like outings in the postseason. Last year the Royals had a solid rotation though. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad either. This year the staff has been so very ineffective.
For now the team will hope Gee and Duffy -- Duffy will be on a pitch count when he makes his first start this weekend, so he's still getting stretched out -- can solidify the rotation while Ventura figures things out. There's not much else they can do since the trade market has yet to heat up. That's still a few weeks away from happening.
The White Sox look very much for real, which means the Royals have to stop this skid quickly if they want to remain in the AL Central race. That has to start with the rotation. The offense has had its moments and the bullpen has been reliable, especially at the back-end. Now it's up to the starting five to do their part.