Kevin Haskin: With backups in lineup, Royals fail to complete sweep

Win streak could have provided helpful momentum heading to Cleveland

Kansas City Royals’ Eric Hosmer hit a game-winning three-run home run against the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday in Kansas City, Mo. The Royals won 6-4. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Even without mashing Mike Moustakas in the lineup looking for one monumental homer, the Royals on Thursday were seeking a franchise record.

 

Most wins following a solar eclipse that drew astounding crowds in and around Kansas City.

OK, they set a record anyway with three.

OK, I made up that record.

A four-game win streak, however, would have put a much nicer wrap on Kansas City’s recent homestand, but the Colorado Rockies foiled that bid – and, a series sweep – by edging the Royals 3-2 in Kauffman Stadium.

Like so many other times this season, the Royals could not seize momentum from a great moment. This time, the first walk-off homer of Eric Hosmer’s career.

That came with two outs in the ninth Wednesday to cap a sensational rally. The kind of rally the Royals are capable of, considering they have 37 comeback wins this year.

It’s just that they don’t have the kind of overall strength to make something stick the next day.

They blew a lead in the eighth when Pat Valaika swatted a two-run homer on a 3-2 pitch by Mike Minor with two outs. Six at-bats remained for additional KC heroics. Melky Cabrera singled to lead off the eighth, but the next six Royals batters were retired in order.

Hold off on that car ride to Cleveland for this weekend’s series with the division-leading Indians.

Save your beer for the Chiefs exhibition on Friday, when you get to jeer Alex Smith for most of the game while demanding Patrick Mahomes get his time with the first-stringers.

Just when the Royals started to excite us again … thud.

Oh, the wild card remains at play – for the second-place Twins, third-place Royals, other AL rivals and maybe that Senior Babe Ruth team you played for in your youth.

That’s just the thing, though. Go for that berth if possible. The Royals, as much as anyone in baseball, know how far a wild card victory can take a team.

Yet they were Thursday, left to use Moustakas as a pinch-hitter with two outs in the ninth. Suspense was created, both by the situation and Moose needing one homer to tie an aged home run record of 36 by one Royal in one season.

The drama, however, lasted as long as the eclipse. Rockies closer Greg Holland, the former Royal who surrendered Hosmer’s blast a day earlier, got Moose to fly out and end the game.

The quick turnaround to accommodate a day game prompted Royals manager Ned Yost to insert a good chunk of his JV.

That intercostal strain no one diagnosed back in the days pitchers threw both ends of a doubleheader continues to cause Salvador Perez to wince. So he got a day off.

A pop Moustakas felt in his knee on Wednesday kept him from starting, though no structural damage, nor inflammation, was detected and he should be back in the lineup Friday.

Closer Kelvin Herrera was available, but circumstances did not warrant.

“If you’re not around this game, or inside this locker room,’’ said manager Ned Yost, “you’d be amazed at what guys are dealing with and are still able to go out on the field and play, and be productive. … I don’t think there’s one guy in there that aren’t dealing with something.’’

Reason, I suppose, to give some guys a day off, but regulars could have given the Royals the oomph they needed to complete a sweep of Colorado.

As quickly as Perez proved how valuable his “presence,’’ to quote Yost, is to the Royals upon his return this week, it was obvious his spark was missed.

Home runs to lead off the first, by Whit Merrifield, and the second, by Brandon Moss, accounted for all of KC’s scoring and could not hold up, despite a nice start from Jakob Junis.

“You don’t like losing games like this, but I think our team’s playing pretty good right now,’’ Yost said.

For the Royals to be at their best, and especially push for the postseason, Yost must consider going with his best players each and every day pretty soon.

Definitely so in a key series that looms at Cleveland beginning on Friday.

Carrying a win streak into Progressive Field would have made the Royals’ hopes look much more encouraging.

Contact Kevin Haskin at kevin.haskin@cjonline.com or @KevinHaskin on Twitter.

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