KANSAS CITY -- What started out as a strength is suddenly turning into a weakness for the Royals.
Kansas City's defense has faltered recently, as the Royals have committed an error in four of their last five games.
And that's just the beginning. Poor defensive plays that haven't been counted as errors have also made a difference. Shortstop Tony Pena dropped a throw from catcher Miguel Olivo against Toronto on Monday, allowing Jays infielder Marco Scutaro to steal a base. The next batter, Gregg Zaun, hit a two-run home run.
On Thursday against the Red Sox, manager Trey Hillman started Alberto Callaspo at short in place of Pena. In one inning, Callaspo let three ground balls get past him that Hillman thought Pena Jr. would've reached. J.D. Drew drove in all three of those runners with a grand slam in Boston's 11-8 win.
The defensive struggles mark a change from earlier in the season. Kansas City still has the fifth fewest errors in the American League with 26, but five of those have come in the last eight games, all of which have been losses.
Although Hillman has always preached defense as one of the biggest keys for winning, he's not ready to blame the recent bout of errors as a major reason for the losing streak.
"When you're not scoring runs or producing runs," Hillman said, "it's easy to always point at one defensive play or lack of focus or intensity. And those are always pieces of it, but in the end, the thing that provides excitement is offensive production."
Mark Dent is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.