Early Saturday afternoon, Royals catcher Salvador Perez lounged in a leather chair in the corner of the visitors clubhouse, preparing to rest his sore side for another day. Lorenzo Cain laid on his back in the trainer’s room, receiving treatment on his tender right quad. Mike Moustakas appeared in a hallway on the other side of the room, shuffling on an injured right knee.
It is the middle of September. Every team in baseball is managing aches and pains, some more serious than others. But for weeks, the Royals’ clubhouse has had the feel of a mobile infirmary. Perez has been limited by an intercostal strain in his side. Cain has played through a sore quad. Moustakas has seen his power sapped by an undisclosed knee injury. The accounting does not include injuries to starting pitchers Danny Duffy and Ian Kennedy.
On Saturday, in an 8-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field, the dull pain surfaced yet again. Perez was out of the lineup for a second straight day. The Royals (73-75) lost for the fourth time in six games, limping toward the finish line in the season’s final weeks.
The injuries offer little excuse for a club that has been deficient on offense, in relief and in the starting rotation. But for a team that dropped to 18-26 since the start of August, they are an integral part of the story.
Worn down and overmatched, the Royals dropped 4 1/2 games behind the Minnesota Twins in the race for the second American League wild-card spot before the Twins played Toronto on Saturday night. As the Royals braced for a series finale here on Sunday, they had just 14 games remaining to make up ground.