KANSAS CITY, Mo. — First the Washington Nationals were very bad, giving up four runs in the first inning.
Then they were very good, recovering from the big early deficit to forge a 4-4 tie in search of their sixth straight road win.
But then they were very bad again, fumbling through a shaky eighth inning Sunday afternoon while giving up two runs and practically handing a 6-4 win to a Kansas City team that hadn’t had a victory in more than a week.
“It’s a tough way to lose a ballgame,” said manager Davey Johnson.
With two out in the eighth of a 4-4 tie and Eric Hosmer on first, first baseman Adam LaRoche fielded a hot grounder off the bat of slow-running Billy Butler. The ball rolled several feet to LaRoche’s right, but pitcher Craig Stammen took a moment to decide whether he should cover the bag. So Butler was safe with an infield hit. Then a few minutes later with the bases loaded, Salvador Perez hit a sharp grounder to shortstop Ian Desmond.
As Hosmer headed home and Butler chugged for third, Desmond bobbled momentarily and then tried for the force out at third. But Butler beat the throw as Hosmer scored the tiebreaking run. David Lough’s RBI single completed the inning.
“(LaRoche) bobbled the ball and then still had time to walk to first,” Johnson said. “We should have got him out.”
Johnson wasn’t sure if Desmond made the right choice going to third, either.
“The ball to Desi, he probably should have gone to second but he probably thought he had the play at third and it kind of caught (third baseman Ryan Zimmerman) off-stride. It’s a tough play for Zim. He probably thought he was going to go second.”
Kelvin Herrera (5-6) pitched 1 1-3 innings of relief for only the Royals’ third victory in 13 games. Stammen (7-6) took the loss and was part of a shaky defense.
Greg Holland pitched the ninth for his 35th save in 37 opportunities, giving up two singles but striking out the side. Stammen went one inning, gave up three hits and two earned runs as the Nationals saw a six-game road winning streak come to an end.
“It hurts but we’re not going to win the rest of our games,” said Dan Haren, who gave up four runs in the first inning but then settled down and did not give up another through seven. “We’re going to lose a few. Offensively, we’re swinging the bats really well. It’s a good time for an off day. We’ll take a day to regroup and then get after the Marlins.”
Butler was not about to say the Royals were due a few good breaks.
“This game never owes you anything. You can’t be looking for breaks,” he said. “You can just play the game hard and hope the ball falls on your side.”
Royals starter Ervin Santana was handed a 4-0 lead after the first inning but gave up three home runs, including Bryce Harper’s two-run shot with two out in the seventh that tied it 4-all.