Published November 20, 2014
Through the first five innings on Sunday, the Kansas City Royals couldn't get a hit.
During the final four innings, they just couldn't get a hit when it mattered.
The Royals' struggles with runners in scoring position continued, and it led to another loss. The Pittsburgh Pirates finished off a sweep with a 3-2 win on Sunday.
Kansas City went 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position Sunday to cap a series in which they had four hits in 29 such situations.
"We're not getting it done," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Make up all the excuses you want. We've just got to get hits with runners in scoring position. I'm done with making excuses. It's a hard game — there's nothing easy about it. They will drive in runs. They're just not doing it right now."
Andrew McCutchen homered and drove in three runs and A.J. Burnett won his fifth consecutive start for Pittsburgh, which finished their first sweep of an AL team in more than a decade.
Alex Gordon and Alicedes Escobar each had two hits for the Royals, who have lost four in a row and six of eight.
Burnett (6-2) had a no-hitter through 5 1-3 innings until Gordon singled with one out in the sixth. He did not allow a baserunner until Eric Hosmer drew a two-out walk in the fourth or a run until Escobar's two-out RBI double in the seventh.
But despite 10 baserunners over the final five innings, the Royals managed only two runs. Gordon scored when Hosmer hit into a fielder's choice in the eighth.
Kansas City left two men on at the end of each of the final three innings.
"Those are opportunities when we crawl back in, we need to get big hits," outfielder Mitch Maier said. "We had chances there. ... That's a time that we needed to capitalize and get those big knocks. Obviously, that's the key to this game. That's how you win and lose games. And we weren't able to do it this weekend."
McCutchen hit an RBI double in the first inning and hit a two-run homer in the third, giving the Pirates enough offense to win their fourth in a row despite having only three hits from all their other players.
"The fact that McCutchen was the one who hurt us, that's the fact I'm very concerned about," Kansas City catcher Brayan Pena said.
McCutchen has feasted on left-handers, improving his average to .463 against them after two hits in his first two at bats against Bruce Chen.
This was the 50th interleague series the Pirates had played since taking three in a row from the Cleveland Indians on June 15-17, 2001.
Since May 25, the Pirates have the best record in the majors at 12-3.
"This weekend was outstanding," Burnett said. "We are playing good ball now and we are hitting on a couple of cylinders and it's fun to watch."
Burnett was charged with two runs on five hits and two walks with six strikeouts in 7 1-3 innings. Pittsburgh has won his past seven starts.
Burnett had a streak of 20 consecutive innings without an earned run at PNC Park snapped in the seventh. He is 4-0 with a 1.27 ERA at home this season.
"He had good tempo and good rhythm today on a hot day, and he was really efficient with things," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "It was a very, very solid performance all across the board for A.J. today."
Tony Watson came on with runners at first and third and one out in the eighth, allowing Gordon to score on a Hosmer fielder's choice.
Juan Cruz walked the bases loaded but struck out Maier for the final out of the eighth.
With closer Joel Hanrahan unavailable because he had appeared in the past three games, Jason Grilli worked around trouble the ninth for his fourth career save and first of the season. With two on and no outs, Grilli stuck out Gordon and Johnny Giavotella to end the game.
McCutchen entered the game with 15 hits in his past 27 at-bats against left-handers. Despite going hitless over the first two games of the series, he made it 17 for 29 over the course of the first three innings.
"I hadn't been feeling that great the past few days, but after a few times out in the cage, I was able to put a show forth today," McCutchen said.
His first-inning double to right drove in Alex Presley, who led off the inning with a single. With Neil Walker on and two outs in the third, McCutchen lifted a 1-2 pitch from Bruce Chen into the left-field bleachers for his 11th of the season.
"He's leading everybody hitting left-handers," Yost said. "We really tried, even in the first inning, we didn't want to throw him a strike."
Chen (5-6) allowed three runs on four hits and a walk with five strikeouts in five innings. He came into the game with five wins in his past six starts but fell to 0-4 in his career at PNC Park.
The Royals have lost 24 of their past 33 games against NL teams.
NOTES: Four of the first six Royals to reach base in the game stole a base. Opponents have been successful in 23 consecutive stolen base attempts against the Pirates. ... The Royals' next three games are the only ones at home over a 12-game interleague stretch that began in Pittsburgh. The Brewers play at Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday-Thursday.