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Drop into just about any bank or supermarket or sports bar in the Kansas City metro area these days and there’s a good chance you’ll see one of several photographs from just a few years ago hanging on a wall.

It might be Yordano Ventura unleashing a fastball. Or Eric Hosmer sliding into home at Citi Field in New York. Or Wade Davis with his arms thrust high into the air http://www.bengalscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-drew-sample-jersey , his blazing fastball having just closed out Game 5 of the World Series and making the Kansas City Royals the world champions.

More than likely, you’ll find the now-iconic photograph of Union Station, where an estimated 400,000 people turned out to celebrate the club’s first title in three decades.

Those photos are reminders of better times. And how quickly things can change.

The Royals, who were indeed baseball royalty in 2015, are now neck and neck with the Orioles for the worst record in baseball. They’ve traded off their star closer, their best players are struggling and the prospects that might one day raise them from the abyss are years away from joining the club.

”The record is what it is. The hitting is what it is. The pitching is what it is,” said Royals manager Ned Yost, who presided over the rebuild that led to back-to-back World Series appearances. ”I have to continue to lead. We have to make sure this year has not been a waste.”

How did things fall apart so quickly?

To start, the Royals doled out big contracts to players that have not produced. Left fielder Alex Gordon consumes 14 percent of the payroll in the third year of a $72 million, four-year deal, but he’s hitting just .247 with five homers and 15 RBIs. Right-hander Ian Kennedy consumes 11 percent of the payroll in the third year of a $70 million, five-year deal Germaine Pratt Jersey , and he’s 1-8 with a 5.11 ERA.

The few stars that remain on the roster have likewise struggled to produce.

Salvador Perez likely will see his streak of five straight All-Star games end. The catcher, in the third year of a $52 million, six-year deal, is hitting .255 with 11 homers and 33 RBIs.

Good luck winning many games that way.

The Royals were 25-61 heading into their off day Thursday and had lost 24 of their last 28 games. They needed to go 38-38 the rest of the way just to avoid the ignominy of 100 losses.

Making things worse: The Royals are losing that many games with a payroll of about $144 million.

Another reason for the precipitous slide was year after year of poor drafts. Only one of their 13 first-round picks since 2010 is currently on the 25-man roster; Hunter Dozier is hitting .223 in 44 games as he struggles to lock down an everyday job.

”As a young guy you know you’re going to fail, and in some ways we want you to fail because that’s how you’re going to get better,” said Yost, who is going through the same slow learning process with infielder and erstwhile top prospect Adalberto Mondesi.

The son of longtime big leaguer Raul Mondesi, he is hitting .214 in 42 at-bats this season.

”We also don’t want to heap too much on their shoulders,” Yost said, ”so it’s balancing act.”

Maybe that’s why the Royals have been slow to gut their roster in favor of a complete rebuild, even if that appears to be coming. They’ve already traded utility outfielder Jon Jay to the Diamondbacks and star closer Kelvin Herrera to the Nationals, getting five prospects in return that the Royals hope will help restock a farm system that remains one of the worst in baseball.

More moves could be coming, too. The Royals are hopeful of trading third baseman Mike Moustakas http://www.bengalscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-ryan-finley-jersey , who signed a one-year deal when no long-term offers materialized last offseason. Versatile infielder Whit Merrifield could land a few solid prospects, and left-hander Danny Duffy and even Perez could be made available, though both have torpedoed their value with poor seasons.

The combination of an old and bad team has been made even worse by the fact that the Royals are, well, pretty boring. They don’t hit an abundance of homers. Their starting rotation includes the first two pitchers to hit 10 losses in the majors. There are no young stars yet worth watching.

As a result, the Royals are drawing an average of 20,283 fans to Kauffman Stadium. That’s a drop of more than 7,000 from last season and more than 13,000 from their championship season.

Still, for all the gloom, the typically irascible Yost has taken a decidedly optimistic approach to this season. He’s been through these long and painful rebuilds and come out the other side.

It takes patience. It takes smart moves. It takes more patience.

”There’s a lot of things to look at that you’re happy with, even though the record is what it is,” he said. ”There is progress that you’re going to see on the back end Renell Wren Jersey , in the light, just as we did in 2013 and 2014, when we turned the corner the last time.”



Already in line to start his third career All-Star Game and first since 2012, Matt Kemp is keeping up a torrid pace.

Kemp tied a career high with five hits, Joc Pederson and Max Muncy hit back-to-back homers to highlight a six-run fourth inning, and the Los Angeles Dodgers routed the Pittsburgh Pirates 17-1 on Monday night in the series opener.

Kemp hit a three-run homer in the sixth and drove in four runs for the second straight game. He came up a triple shy of hitting for the cycle.

He’s notched eight straight hits since Sunday against Colorado; the franchise record is 10.

”It’s been pretty good,” Kemp said. ”As a team, we did a pretty good job.”

Fans chanted ”MVP! MVP!” as Kemp crossed the plate after his 15th homer of the season. The veteran slugger is the second-leading vote getter among National League outfielders for the July 17 All-Star Game. Kemp also scored four runs.

”It was a clinic tonight, and everyone sort of fed off what he was doing at the plate,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.

Cody Bellinger homered in the third, leaving the Dodgers with 116 homers this season after they slugged a major league-leading and franchise-record 55 in June. They already have five long balls two days into July.

The Dodgers recorded season highs in hits (21) and runs. They batted around in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, tacking on three runs in the fifth and four more in the sixth for a 17-1 lead.

”You never like when these games happen http://www.bengalscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-michael-jordan-jersey , but they seem to find a way to happen every now and then,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

Alex Wood (5-5) allowed one run and six hits in six innings. The left-hander struck out three and didn’t walk anyone in recording a win for his fourth straight start. The Dodgers’ defense backed him with double plays in the first and sixth.

Wood was sitting for long stretches while the Dodgers batted around, although he also was busy with four at-bats, getting a hit.

Caleb Ferguson pitched three innings to earn his first major league save on his 22nd birthday.

”A 16-run save,” joked Wood.

Ferguson said, ”I didn’t realize it until after the game. It’s awesome, especially on my birthday.”

Yasiel Puig had three hits and drove in four runs in the Dodgers’ second straight win.

The Pirates stumbled from the start.

In the first inning alone, David Freese dropped a throw at first base, starter Nick Kingham balked a runner to third and catcher Elias Diaz missed the target on a throw to the mound for an error by Kingham that allowed Bellinger to score the Dodgers’ second run of the inning.

”It just missed my glove and bounced away,” Kingham said. ”No one else was expecting it but the runner on third saw it and he went home.”

Pittsburgh’s third error – by center fielder Austin Meadows – led to the Dodgers scoring their 10th run in the fourth.

The Pirates’ lone run came on Diaz’s homer in the second.

Kingham (3-3) gave up seven runs – five earned – and eight hits in three-plus innings, the rookie’s shortest outing of the season. The right-hander struck out two and walked three making a spot start in place of Chad Kuhl, who is on the disabled list with a forearm strain.

The Dodgers were no kinder to reliever Tanner Anderson, who got tagged for six runs – five earned – and eight hits in two innings of his major league debut.

”First pitch T.J. Hockenson Jersey , I was really nervous,” the 2015 Harvard graduate said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Pirates: INF-OF Sean Rodriguez (right quad strain) began a rehab assignment at Triple-A Indianapolis. … LHP Enny Romero (left shoulder impingement) was reinstated from the DL and designated for assignment.

Dodgers: RHP Walker Buehler will pitch at Class A-Rancho Cucamonga on Tuesday. If it goes well, he will toss a bullpen session on Friday. … LHP Tony Cingrani (left shoulder inflammation) will have a rehab assignment before he returns.

PUIG’S DEFENSE

With a 17-1 lead, Puig wasn’t loafing on defense. Jordy Mercer lined a double into the right-field corner in the seventh and Corey Dickerson took off from second while Puig chased the ball into the corner. If Dickerson was thinking about trying to score, Puig wouldn’t have it. The Cuban threw a flat-footed strike from foul territory that held up Dickerson.

WORST LOSS

It was the Pirates’ worst loss since falling 20-0 to the Brewers on April 22, 2010, at home. The Bucs allowed season highs in runs and hits, while the Dodgers’ four homers tied a season high.

UP NEXT

Pirates RHP Ivan Nova (4-5, 4.02 ERA) starts on Tuesday. He is 1-0 with a 2.31 ERA in two career starts against the Dodgers. LHP Clayton Kershaw (1-4, 2.84) makes his third start for Los Angeles since coming off the DL. He is 2-3 with a 3.18 ERA in 11 career starts against the Pirates, with 69 strikeouts and 12 walks while holding their batters to a .221 average.

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