The Kansas City Royals entered Sunday’s series finale with aspirations of sweeping the Houston Astros.
After winning the first two games of the series, the Royals were in a prime spot to weaken the Astros’ lead in the American League West divisional race.
KC quickly realized it wouldn’t be easy. Astros ace Framber Valdez silenced the Royals across seven innings. He allowed one run and struck out five batters. As a result, the Astros salvaged a 7-1 victory at Kauffman Stadium.
“Today was a tough one,” Royals infielder Nick Loftin said. “We had a chance to sweep a team that’s contending for the postseason right now. But it’s a positive we were able to take a series from them. We are going to keep building on that and take it one day at a time.”
The Royals mustered just six hits against the Astros. KC scored its lone run in the second inning, as outfielder Drew Waters collected a sacrifice fly.
Meanwhile, the Astros hit two solo homers and scored late insurance runs. They added on to a difficult season for Royals starter Jordan Lyles, as he allowed four runs in six innings.
Houston star Jose Altuve finished 3-for-5 and five Astros recorded one or more RBIs.
Lyles dropped to 4-17 with the loss.
“(They are) one of the better teams in baseball,” Lyles said. “They are going to make you pay on those mistakes.”
KC fell to 48-102, four losses from a franchise-worst mark. The Royals will begin a three-game series against the Cleveland Guardians on Monday.
Missed previous games of the series?
Here are more notables from Sunday’s game:
Jordan Lyles serves 2 homers against Astros
Lyles has struggled with the long ball this season. The 13-year veteran had allowed 36 homers to opposing batters ahead of Sunday’s start.
The number rose against the Astros. Lyles surrendered two home runs to Houston duo Jake Meyers and Yordan Alvarez. Both homers were solo shots.
“Both missed locations ...” Lyles said. “Good hitters make you pay on those mistakes. (Alvarez) is a really good hitter. Meyers, I started mixing in a small, little slider. And it backed up middle-middle.”
Lyles tied a franchise record for most homers allowed in a single season. He matched former Royals pitcher Darrell May, who allowed 38 in 2004.
Lyles has allowed 102 home runs in his last three seasons.
“He got hurt by the long ball,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “His stuff was good and he was attacking the zone. ... You look up, six innings, and we just didn’t give him any run support.”
Nick Loftin continues hot stretch
The Royals’ No. 5 prospect continues to impress in the majors.
Loftin added two more hits against the Astros Sunday. He recorded a pair of singles and scored a run in the second inning. This season, Loftin is hitting .333 (12-for-36) with six RBIs and a .928 OPS (on-base plus slugging).
“I’m just getting good pitches to hit and getting myself in good counts,” Loftin said. “I’m taking the pitches I know I can’t hit hard and swinging at the ones I know I can.”
Loftin also has six extra-base hits. He trails former Royals outfielder Mark Quinn (nine extra-base hits) for the most through 10 games to begin a career.
What’s next: The Royals begin a three-game series against the Cleveland Guardians on Monday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium. Brady Singer will oppose Cal Quantrill in the series opener.