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‘Frustrated’ Royals Look to Turn Page on Lost Series



KANSAS CITY, Mo. ( – In one of their biggest tests this season with a chance at winning a series against the Orioles, the Royals went out quietly on Sunday afternoon in their 5-0 loss at Kauffman Stadium.

Starter Seth Lugo snapped two streaks, allowing his first two homers of the year and not recording a quality start for the first time this season, and the Royals offense was shut out for the first time in 2024.

The second series loss to the Orioles this year and a 2-4 record against the reigning American League East champions was a reminder that much more has to go right if Kansas City is to compete against the best teams in the league in 2024.

The Orioles outscored the Royals in the season series, 29-27, and walked them off twice in the series in Baltimore earlier this month. This weekend, the Royals offense was thunderous for two games — with 16 runs scored Friday and Saturday — but quiet Sunday against lefty Cole Irvin, who tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings.

Fourteen of the 29 runs the Royals allowed to the Orioles over the season series came in the seventh inning or later, including two runs in Saturday night’s 9-7 loss that ended up being the difference in the Royals’ comeback bid that fell short.

“I would evaluate it as competitive but not where we want to be,” first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino, who extended his hitting streak to 10 games, said. “These are the series you really want. It’s tough to do that. … It sucks losing this series. We’re not happy with it at all. We’re happy with how we played, but we’re not happy with the results.”

The Royals will host the Blue Jays in a four-game set at The K this week, another challenging test. While Kansas City is much improved from last year — at 13-9, it’s off to its sixth-best start in franchise history through 22 games — the series loss to the Orioles showed there’s still work to be done.

“We’d like to get to a point where we’re testing other teams too, where it’s not a litmus test for us,” Pasquantino said. “But right now, I get it. It definitely is. We’ve got to do a better job against the top half of the league. We want to do that, and we had an opportunity this weekend. Let it go by, and we’ll get after it tomorrow.”

A quiet offense Sunday meant Lugo had to be near perfect again. The last home run Lugo allowed entering the third inning Sunday afternoon came off the bat of Rockies infielder Brendan Rodgers on Sept. 20, 2023 — 41 1/3 innings ago.

That streak was snapped when Colton Cowser and Jordan Westburg hit back-to-back homers off Lugo in the third inning.

“The Cowser home run, missed across the plate right to his sweet spot,” Lugo said. “And with the Westburg home run, it was a mistake that ran over the heart of the plate. Couple of missed locations, and that’s what happens at this level.”

Lugo had also begun his season with four consecutive quality starts and a 1.05 ERA. But on Sunday, he didn’t make it out of the sixth inning and was tagged with four runs.

With one out in the sixth, Anthony Santander tripled, Ryan Mountcastle doubled and Cedric Mullins singled. Lefty reliever Angel Zerpa hadn’t started warming up in the bullpen until Mullins’ at-bat, so Lugo faced Cowser, a lefty, for a third time and walked him, loading the bases.

“I pitched him tough,” Lugo said. “I thought the last few pitches were strikes. That’s what I was going for. I knew I had the righty on deck, so that was part of the plan.”

Zerpa came in to face the righty Westburg and walked him in a seven-pitch plate appearance, allowing a run to score. But Zerpa got out of the inning with back-to-back strikeouts against two lefties in Jackson Holliday and Gunnar Henderson.

“They’re some good hitters,” Lugo said. “They don’t swing and miss often. They’ve got a pretty decent idea of the zone. Besides those couple of mistakes, I put them in pretty solid spots where they hit them near guys.”

The Royals went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and left nine on base Sunday. They couldn’t find the barrel against Irvin and had a tough time adjusting to his movement. It was far different from the seven-run rally they showed Saturday night.

“Frustration for sure,” Pasquantino said. “We would have liked to play better. We would have liked to put some runs on the board.

“… I’m going to keep saying it. We’ll see you tomorrow night.”