The Kansas City Royals have not played October baseball since 1985 when umpire Don Denkinger blew a call that helped win them the World Series. No team has endured a longer playoff drought.
But with about a quarter of the season left, the Royals and their cast of largely unrecognizable players are making a hard push to end their fans’ suffering. By handing the Marlins a 6-2 loss on Monday, the Royals crept closer to the top in the American League Central and wild-card standings.
The victory was the 19th for the late-charging Royals in their 24 games since the All-Star break.
For the reeling Marlins, it was their sixth loss in seven games so far on a demanding road trip that had already taken them to division leaders Pittsburgh and Atlanta.
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After escaping with one win against the Braves, winners of 13 in a row when the Marlins arrived in Atlanta, the new opponent was yet another streaking club in the form of the Royals.
About the only thing the Marlins and Royals have in common with one another is that both rank as the two worst home run-hitting teams in the majors. The Marlins entered Monday having hit only one home run in August, a stretch of 10 games, and came up empty once again.
Billy Butler put one out for the Royals, but it was more insurance.
No, the key hits for the Royals were a pair of triples off Marlins starter Tom Koehler. The first was delivered by Justin Maxwell in the fourth and drove in the game’s first run. The second was off the bat of Alcides Escobar in the sixth and put the Royals back on top after the Marlins had just tied the score, 2-2, in the top half of the inning.
Koehler cruised early, retiring eight in a row to begin his outing and not giving up his first hit until Mike Moustakas beat out an infield hit with two outs in the fourth, a play in which the pitcher slipped coming off the mound and was late to the bag on a ball hit to Logan Morrison at first. But then came Maxwell’s triple and back-to-back singles to give Kansas City a 2-0 lead.
“They didn’t hit the ball hard, but they made the most of their hits,” manager Mike Redmond said.
Koehler was also a tick late to the bag on another cover play at first.
Redmond said both plays should have resulted in outs, not infield hits.
“We’re just not scoring enough runs to overcome any mistake right now,” Redmond said. “We can’t give any team extra outs, and we didn’t cover first a couple of times, and that cost us. That’s a play we should execute every time.”
It hasn’t been a pleasant trip offensively for the Marlins (their only win was a 1-0 squeaker in Atlanta on Saturday) and the trend continued Monday, as Wade Davis became the latest pitcher to have it his own way with them.
Though the anemic Marlins actually managed to bang out more than their customary handful of hits — they finished with nine — runs proved again to be a scarce commodity. It wasn’t until the sixth that they managed to break through, and even then it required help in the form of sloppy defensive work by the Royals outfield to get on the board.
Giancarlo Stanton ripped a one-out single into center that somehow eluded Jarrod Dyson and rolled to the warning track. Stanton ended up at third, and then scored on Logan Morrison’s double. Two batters later, Greg Dobbs tied it with a double into the right-field corner that was misplayed by Maxwell. Dobbs ended up at third but advanced no further.
And the Marlins didn’t score again, either, even though they loaded the bases in the seventh and opened the eighth with another double by Dobbs that went to waste. They ended up stranding 11 runners.