Nationals

Royals finish another year with losing record

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Royals finish another year with losing record

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The season began with the Kansas City Royals toting along the slogan, ``Our Time,'' a reference to the young and enthusiastic players who have slowly matriculated through their farm system.

There were expectations of the first winning season in eight years and, if everything fell right, the first playoff appearance since 1985, the longest drought in the major leagues.

Then reality hit: Injuries piled up before the season began, a 12-game losing streak forced them to dig out of a hole, and things never got on track for some of those key young players.

The result was a 72-90 season, a record not all dissimilar to years past.

``I saw a lot of good things this year,'' manager Ned Yost said Thursday. ``Did we finish where we wanted to finish? No. But for the first time in a long time, we finished in third place.''

That's certainly a silver lining for another frustrating season.

Kansas City lost All-Star closer Joakim Soria to Tommy John surgery in spring training, and the injuries didn't stop there. Starting pitchers Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino made it a trio of Tommy John casualties, outfielder Lorenzo Cain missed long stretches of time, and there were enough bumps and bruises along the way to put the training staff on speed dial.

The hope that seemed to flicker all offseason was doused in April, when the Royals lost a dozen games in a row. They made a few halting attempts to get back to .500, but they were left trying to play catch-up the entire way.

``It's about being consistent,'' said outfielder Alex Gordon, who backed up his new long-term contract with another solid season. ``Having a 12-game losing streak is not being consistent. The good teams don't have 12-game losing streaks. They find a way to even those out.''

The biggest culprit in the Royals' failure to even things out was starting pitching.

Bruce Chen led the team in wins, but only by going 11-14 with a 5.07 ERA. Former first-round pick Luke Hochevar was 8-16 with a 5.73 ERA, and fill-in starters such as Vin Mazzaro, Everett Teaford and Will Smith didn't fare a whole lot better.

The Royals had a 5.19 ERA among starting pitchers, better only than Cleveland, Colorado, Boston and Minnesota. The 890 innings they logged was third-fewest in the majors.

``You do it with starting pitching. Starting pitching tilts the field in your favor every single night,'' said general manager Dayton Moore, whose biggest challenge this offseason will be to uncover a couple of reliable arms for the Royals' rotation.

He certainly doesn't have a whole to worry about in regards to his own team.

Sure, Moore will have to decide whether to exercise a club option on Soria, and there's a good chance he'll try to keep Jeremy Guthrie, a pending free agent who went 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA after his arrival in a midseason trade that jettisoned Jonathan Sanchez.

For the most part, though, the Royals will be free to scour free agency.

Among the first tier of starting pitchers is the Angels' Zack Greinke, though reuniting with the Royals could be uncomfortable. The Brewers' Shaun Marcum is another option, a pitcher from the Kansas City area who might relish the opportunity to pitch in front of family and friends.

It's more likely the Royals will try to attract a couple starters a notch below them.

``We have to have the mindset and the focus and the understanding that there's very few pitchers in this league that are No. 1 and No. 2 starters,'' Moore said, ``but the pitchers that are most successful have the mind of a No. 1 starter.''

Moore said he's been given the green light by Royals owner David Glass to spend the money necessary to lure an anchor for the starting rotation, but he also cautioned about overspending in free agency, calling the offseason meat-market a ``flawed way to build your team.''

As of Tuesday, the Royals carried a payroll of $67.8 million, topping only San Diego, Houston, Pittsburgh and AL West-champion Oakland, giving them plenty of flexibility to make things happen.

``I've felt all along we'll always have the necessary resource to move forward and do what we need to do to build our team,'' Moore said. ``We have to make sure we're committing the dollars and the years, and it coincides with the valuation as well, to help us win.''

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A quick recap of Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game, including how your Nats did

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USA TODAY Sports

A quick recap of Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game, including how your Nats did

Tuesday evening's All-Star game was fairly uneventful until its later innings. The American League triumphed over the National League, 8 - 6, for their sixth straight All-Star game victory.

Despite fears of potential rain and inclement weather delaying the game, there were no unexpected stops in play. 

The AL started very strong offensively, with runs from Aaron Judge and Mike Trout in the top of the second and third innings, respectively. Jean Segura's three-run homer in the top of the eighth made victory look inevitable for the AL by the fifth. 

Max Scherzer, unsurprisingly, was well received among fans at Nationals Park. The Nats starter pitched the first two innings, giving up four hits. One was Judge's second-inning homer, but Scherzer remained unfazed and lighthearted. Four strikeouts made his performance commendable.

Bryce Harper did not get on as well, striking out in both of his at-bats. After Harper's Home Run Derby Win last night, there was chatter of him going for the MVP title as well. 

It didn't work out, but given Harper's consistent presence at the All-Star game, there's always another chance.

Elsewhere in the dugout for the NL, who rallied back from the three-run deficit, the kids were all right. Willson Contreras of the Cubs had a solo homer at the bottom of the third, the Rockies' Trevor Story had one in the seventh, and Christian Yelich added another in the eighth. A two-run homer by Scooter Gennett in the bottom of the ninth brought the game back to a 5-5 tie.

Jesus Aguilar struck out for the NL, and extra innings began.

In the top of the tenth, Alex Bregman and George Springer, both of the Astros, hit home runs almost immediately off of Dodgers pitcher Ross Stipling. Stop us if you've heard that one before.

With no outs, Michael Brantley took a sacrifice flyout to right field, and Jean Segura got in one more run to put the score at 8-5.

Though Joey Votto (Reds) hit one last home run in the bottom of the tenth, the NL couldn't quite make up the deficit.

After a late night, the American League will be going home happy.

MORE ALL-STAR GAME NEWS:

Elena Delle Donne, Kristi Toliver named 2018 WNBA All-Stars

Elena Delle Donne, Kristi Toliver named 2018 WNBA All-Stars

On Tuesday, the WNBA revealed the list of 22 players selected by fans, WNBA players and head coaches and media for Verizon WNBA All-Star 2018. 

Two Washington Mystics will be featured in the July 28 showcase at Target Center in Minneapolis.

Elena Delle Donne is making her fifth All-Star appearance and serving as one of two team captains, while Kristi Toliver earns the honor for her second time, and first since 2013. 

Delle Donne recorded her 3,000th career point Sunday night becoming the fastest player in WNBA history to reach the milestone with a 23-point performance in a loss to the Atlanta Dream. It was just the 148th game of her career. 

The 28-year-old is averaging 20.6 points, good for fourth in the league. 

Toliver is averaging 14 points and 4.2 assists. The former Maryland Terrapin is also just a week removed from making her debut as part of the Wizards coaching staff during Las Vegas Summer League. 

The Mystics are 13-9 and atop the eastern conference by 0.5 games. The last time the team had two all-stars was in 2015, when Stefanie Dolson and Emma Meesseman played together.

For ticket information about Verizon WNBA All-Star 2018, fans may visit lynx.wnba.com/allstar/.