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Struggling Royals in denial

April 24, 2012

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— Kansas City manager Ned Yost insists the Royals are playing too well to have lost 12 straight.

The Royals matched their third-longest losing streak in team history Tuesday night when Cleveland’s Derek Lowe allowed one run over six innings in the Indians’ 4-3 victory.

“We were one hit shy, but golly we were into it to the very end,” Yost said.

Kansas City scored once in the ninth inning and had the go-ahead run at the plate against closer Chris Perez, who got his seventh save when he got Jeff Francouer to bounce into a game-ending forceout.

“One hit away, that seems to be the name of the game right now,” Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas said.

“It looks bad, 12 in a row, but we’re playing good baseball, playing the game the right way. We just need to find a way to get that one hit that breaks it for us.”

The Royals also lost 12 straight in 1997 and 2008. Kansas City lost 13 straight in 2006 and had a team-record 19 consecutive losses in 2005.

“We’ll break through,” Yost said. “I find it hard to believe we’ve lost 12 in a row, the way we are battling to the very end. That’s a good sign with a young team.”

The Royals have been outscored 73-44 during the streak, though five of the losses have been by one run.

Cleveland built upon a recently completed 7-2 trip by returning to Progressive Field and earning their second home win in six games. They did it with starting center fielder Michael Brantley resting a sore right wrist until he was used as a defensive replacement.

Manager Manny Acta said right fielder Shin-Soo Choo left in the ninth because of a tight left hamstring and will be evaluated today.

Lowe (3-1) gave up eight hits and struck out five.

The right-hander used a good sinker to get nine outs on grounders as he bounced back from a 4-1 loss at Seattle in which he walked six without a strikeout on April 18. In addition, the pitcher’s home in Florida was recently burglarized. Among items taken were his 2004 World Series ring, earned with the Boston Red Sox. The losses were estimated at $90,000.

“It was obviously a tough week,” Lowe said. “Anytime you have something like that happen and not being there, it’s tough. That’s what law enforcement is there for. Major League Baseball knows about it. The good thing is there’s nothing you can’t replace. Luckily, no family members were there.”

Jack Hannahan had a two-run double in Cleveland’s three-run fifth against Jonathan Sanchez (1-1), who struggled to command his fastball.

Beforehand, the Royals continued to try anything to get out of their funk. On Monday, they vented frustrations in a closed-door pregame meeting in which voices were raised in anger. Before opening a three-game series in Cleveland, players gathered around a clubhouse television to play a baseball video game.

That didn’t help either, though Yost liked the idea.

“It was good to see them relaxing and enjoying themselves,” Yost said. “That’s a good sign. Our kids need that right now.

“When they step on that field, they’re playing the game extremely hard. They’re all trying to break out of this slump. We’re trying to get them to try easier. We get runners on base and our numbers drop pretty dramatically.”

Mitch Maier had an RBI single for Kansas City in the fourth and doubled home a run in the eighth. Overall, the Royals went 4 for 13 with runners in scoring position. The Royals are 13 for 73 (.178) in that situation over their last eight games.

Sanchez hit Indians leadoff batter Jason Kipnis in the hand with his fifth pitch. Kipnis eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Carlos Santana to put Cleveland ahead 1-0.

On April 14, Sanchez hit Choo with a pitch. Indians starter Jeanmar Gomez retaliated the next inning by plunking Moustakas, leading to a brief bench-clearing scuffle. Gomez drew a five-game suspension and was suspended. Hannahan and Acta also were ejected and fined.

A year ago with San Francisco, Sanchez broke Choo’s left thumb with a pitch. The Royals acquired him in a trade for outfielder Melky Cabrera in November.

Sanchez walked the bases loaded in the second, but got Kipnis on a first-pitch popout, followed by a double-play grounder by Asdrubal Cabrera.

“We’ve seen that before, Sanchez getting out of bases-loaded jams,” Yost said. “He had no fastball command, but a good breaking ball. He starts to command that fastball and he’s going to be in great shape.”

The left-hander also loaded the bases with walks in the fifth. One run scored on a sacrifice fly by Shelley Duncan. Hannahan followed with a double to right-center to make it 4-1 and finish Sanchez.

Sanchez walked seven over 4 2-3 innings, allowing four runs and four hits. He threw 115 pitches, only 56 for strikes.

Kansas City closed to 4-3 in the ninth. Chris Getz doubled and later scored on a groundout by Billy Butler.

Notes: Cleveland went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left 13 runners on base. ... Indians DH Travis Hafner walked twice. He has reached by hit, walk or hit by pitch in 16 of his last 23 plate appearances. ... Hannahan made a diving backhand stop to rob Francoeur of a hit in the fourth. ... Yost expects OF Lorenzo Cain (left groin strain) to return Friday. Cain has been on the DL since April 11. ... Cleveland’s Aaron Cunningham started in center field, moved to left and played right field the final inning when INF Jason Donald went to left field, his first appearance in the outfield in the majors.

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