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Royals positive despite setback

May 9, 2011

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— Even though it ended Sunday with a 5-2 loss to Oakland, there was much about this nine-game homestand for the Kansas City Royals to like.

For one thing, it marked the debut of slugging rookie first baseman Eric Hosmer, the most heralded rookie to arrive in K.C. since Bo Jackson. Hosmer sold tickets, created excitement and doubled off the right-field fence in three games against the Athletics.

For another, KC won six of nine. Any team that can win six of every nine home games could be in for an interesting year.

But now it’s back on the dreaded road. The team that went 0-6 in its last road foray is now headed for New York and Detroit.

“We had a bad road trip last time,” manager Ned Yost said. “That doesn’t mean we’re a bad road team. It just means we had a bad trip. you have bad home stands, you have bad weeks. You have bad series. It’s our time to go on the road and we look forward to it.”

Kevin Kouzmanoff and Kurt Suzuki each homered for the A’s, and Conor Jackson collected three hits on Sunday as Oakland took the series, two games to one. It was the first home series the Royals have lost all year.

In another encouraging development, the Royals have notched a major-league-best six walkoff wins already this year.

“We’re in the ballgame,” said Jeff Francis, who took the loss Sunday. “When we’re in those games, we’re winning them more often than not. That points to our record and that points to the kind of guys we have on this team. We lost this game. But we’re always in them and we’re never giving up ’til the last out is made.”

Oakland’s Tyson Ross (2-2), who moved into the rotation last month when Dallas Braden went on the disabled list, went six innings and gave up two runs on six hits, with three walks and four strikeouts. He has not allowed a home run in 282⁄3 innings.

Brian Fuentes pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his ninth save in 11 opportunities.

“I’ll take 6-3 all the time,” said Yost. “The 6-3 is OK. But we played good baseball the entire homestand. That’s what I’m looking for, consistency in our baseball team every single day, going out and playing good baseball. You’re not going to win them all, but if you’re playing good baseball you’re going to win more than you lose, and that’s the key.”

Nevertheless, third baseman Wilson Betemit’s throwing error let Coco Crisp reach base to start the game, and Daric Barton followed with a double. Jackson’s RBI single made it 1-0 and then Josh Willingham brought Barton home with a fielder’s choice grounder.

Kouzmanoff’s home run off Francis with two outs in the sixth put the A’s on top, 3-0. Suzuki added a solo shot in the ninth off Louis Coleman.

Francis (0-4) was charged with three runs on eight hits in 61⁄3 innings.

Ross took a 3-0 shutout into the sixth but got in trouble with a throwing error when he tried to scoop Melky Cabrera’s infield single to first.

Cabrera wound up on second and scored on Hosmer’s two-out double, the rookie first baseman’s first major-league RBI. Betemit walked and then, in a bang-bang play, Hosmer raced home on a single by Mitch Maier and scored a split-second before Betemit was tagged out at second on a strong throw from right fielder David DeJesus.

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