Brady Singer, Royals can’t slow down A’s in final loss

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OAKLAND — Determined not to let the inning slip away from him like in the past, Royals starter Brady Singer didn’t change his approach against the top of the A’s lineup with runners at second and third and an out at fifth.

Singer trusted the pitching, himself and the defense behind him to come out of the jam clean, keeping the Royals within a point. Second baseman Whit Merrifield made an impressive home throw on a contact play for the second out, and Singer got a pop-up to end the threat.

“Making the right pitches in the right place at the right time,” Singer said. “That’s the goal there, to put the ball on the ground. I saw that [the defense] were in, so I knew maybe with a few throws down, maybe get a ground ball and let the defense work. They have been great all year. Definitely something I was trying to do.

Singer didn’t suffer the same fate in the sixth inning, when he put down the first two batters and threw a wild pitch before going out with one out. A’s catcher Sean Murphy hit a smashing three-run homer off reliever Jose Cuas, handing the Royals a 4-0 loss at Oakland Coliseum, with Singer charged with three runs in 5 1/3 innings.

With two previous wins in the set against Oakland, it’s the first time Kansas City has won a series since May 13-15 in Colorado. The Royals still haven’t swept a team this season.

But keeping a winning streak alive is hard to do without scoring points. The Royals only had three hits in Sunday’s final, including two from MJ Melendez. With five walks, a hit batsman and Andrew Benintendi reached on an error, Kansas City fell 11 and went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position.

The Royals’ first hit of the game against A’s southpaw Sean Koenig – who was making his third career start – didn’t come before Melendez’s brace to lead the fifth.

After Singer’s breakout in the fifth inning, the Royals charged with one out in the top of the sixth. But Melendez flew to the left and Michael A. Taylor hit swinging.

“It’s a big save,” manager Mike Matheny said. “…It’s frustrating, but you talk about having a young pitcher that we’ve never seen before, he just needs a little time to read.”

Singer was unlucky to escape another jam when Matheny went to Cuas with an out in the sixth, hoping to keep the deficit to one point. Singer was only 87 pitches away, but he had hit Ramón Laureano and thrown a wild pitch before the pitch change.

“I felt good,” Singer said. “I just made a stupid mistake at Laureano, I was trying to get in, but he jumped on me and ran away. That was the key part of that outing, hitting him there, it hurts me. kinda got into trouble.

“Every time you have a stress sleeve like [the fifth], you know it might have some carry over,” added Matheny. “And then single, hit drummer, wild pitch. Things are starting to go the wrong way. So we have to try our luck. Cuas has been really good.

The Royals were hoping for a sweep, but they left the week-long stay in the Bay Area with their pitch still on a roll. Through six games of this nine-game West Coast trip, the Kansas City starters posted a 3.13 ERA (11 earned runs in 31 2/3 innings). It’s a small sample, but something the team needed to see, especially since the rotation still ranks near the bottom of the Majors in ERA (5.25).

“We’re seeing more wins,” Singer said. “Making good outings will help us enormously. We have a competition between all of us, and that helps us. It’s a lot of fun and we appreciate the process of setting up these great starts.

The bullpen — its equally serious struggles with a 4.61 ERA this season — posted a 2.33 ERA (five earned runs in 19 1/3 innings) during this road trip. And a lot of that success comes from newbies getting deeper into the games.

“Every time we step out there, when we have confidence in our starting pitcher, we believe we can play with anyone,” Matheny said. “These guys are good. They show it. They keep working through a few bumps and are still good, even when they don’t have their best hardware. Brady had some pretty good stuff to win today. It’s a shame we couldn’t capitalize offensively.

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