Royals' young arms struggle in playoff crunch

Garcia labors in MLB debut, chased in 1st inning vs. Twins

Royals' young arms struggle in playoff crunch

MINNEAPOLIS -- For the third time in a week, the Royals were seemingly out of a game by the third inning.

After back-to-back 12-0 losses earlier this week, they were routed in a 17-0 loss to the Twins on Saturday night.

"It makes it tough when you fall behind," manager Ned Yost said. "What was it, 10-0, before we even got an out in the second inning? It makes it tough."

The Royals fell to 4 1/2 games behind the Twins for the second American League Wild Card spot and the reason behind the latest blowout loss has many tentacles. Injuries have decimated their rotational depth to the point that they turned to left-hander Onelki Garcia, a 28-year-old and a one-time Dodgers prospect who was signed last fall and pushed into his first Major League start on Saturday.

Garcia wasn't nearly up for the challenge, getting just one out through his first six batters and falling behind, 4-0. His replacement, rookie Andres Machado, fared no better in his Major League debut, going two-thirds of an inning and giving up six runs.

"I'm grateful for the opportunity that Kansas City gave him to be able to get this start today," Garcia said through interpreter Pedro Grifol. "Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get the job done. But I'm grateful for the opportunity."

McCarthy strikes out Gimenez

The Royals had limited organizational options other than Garcia. Rookie left-hander Eric Skoglund started last Sunday's game at Cleveland and was ineffective in a 12-0 loss, and thus is a bullpen arm now.

Left-hander Danny Duffy is on the disabled list. Right-hander Trevor Cahill just came off the disabled list and isn't built back enough in terms of arm strength to start -- Cahill gave up a three-run homer in relief on Saturday.

Newcomer Sam Gaviglio, just claimed off waivers from the Mariners, wasn't available because he threw over 70 pitches on Thursday.

And Yost also wanted to give right-hander Ian Kennedy and left-hander Jason Vargas, both of whom have struggled mightily lately, an extra day of rest rather than go to a four-man rotation this week, which would have avoided the Garcia start.

Yost, though, wasn't making excuses or complaining about pitching depth.

"We didn't pitch good tonight," Yost said. "Go get them tomorrow."

Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer wasn't pointing fingers afterward, either.

"We've got guys that are coming up and they're trying to do whatever they can to help us," Hosmer said. "They're going up against a team that's been playing pretty well as of late. Good teams like the Twins will do what they did tonight and put some runs on the board."

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.