Royals still sliding in 6-5 loss in Houston

Were this just one game, one bad game by the Royals, it would be easy enough to shrug off. Those cliches about it being a six-month season are based in reality.

But so is this: The Royals, right now, are flat-lining after Monday’s depressing 6-5 loss to the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.

This makes four straight one-run losses; 11 losses overall in their last 14 games; and the Royals now find themselves looking up at .500 — they are 20-21 — for the first time since the season’s first week.

“It’s been a bad couple of weeks,” admitted veteran Miguel Tejada, who hit a three-run homer while starting at third base in place of slumping Mike Moustakas.

“I think everybody has to understand that we’ve got the same guys as when the season started and the same guys we had in spring training. Everybody in baseball has tough times. Right now, it’s happening to us.

“One thing we have to do is not let it last too long. Just get a win (on Tuesday). Start a winning streak (in Tuesday).”

That chance beckoned Monday. The Royals sorely needed a fortifying effort against the sad-sack Astros to erase the sour taste of blowing leads in three weekend losses in Oakland.

Instead, they got a loss and saw catcher Salvy Perez exit because of an injured right hip. The injury doesn’t appear serious; Perez said he expects to play Tuesday, although he seems likely to get at least one day to recover.

“We’re going to go day to day on it and see how he feels (Tuesday),” manager Ned Yost said. “I’d imagine (Perez will miss a day or two). It’s sore right now.”

It’s no exaggeration to pin sad-sack (or worse) on the Astros. Anyone familiar with the Royals’ recent history is well-versed with the eternal yardstick for truly gosh-awful: the 1962 New York Mets.

The Astros entered the game at 12-32, which is exactly where those expansion Mets stood after 44 games en route to losing a record 120 games. That’s a bad neighborhood.

So, the Royals needed to take advantage. They needed, specifically, for Jeremy Guthrie to show the form of the guy who recently set a franchise record by not losing in 18 consecutive starts.

What they got was, instead, perhaps his most disappointing outing since arriving last July 20 in that steal of deal from Colorado for Jonathan Sanchez. Guthrie, 5-2, gave up a season-worst six runs while lasting a season-low five innings.

“I never really got into a groove,” he said, “and it’s my own fault. Whether it was a walk or falling behind guys. I wasn’t able to put anybody away either.”

The Royals built leads of 1-0 and 4-3. It was the eighth straight game in which they scored the game’s first run. (They are now 2-6 in those games.)

Tejada’s three-run homer in the fourth erased a 3-1 deficit and was notable in that it marked the Royals’ first homer with a man on base in a 10-day span covering 83 innings.

Generally, though, the Royals let Houston lefty Dallas Keuchel, 1-1, off the hook. He pitched into the seventh before exiting with two on, two outs and a two-run lead.

Paul Clemens stranded those runners when Billy Butler grounded into a force at second. Wesley Wright began the eighth but exited after Eric Hosmer’s one-out double.

Hector Ambriz surrendered a bloop RBI double to Jeff Francoeur, who had three hits, before stranding the tying run at third base. Jose Veras protected the one-run lead in the ninth for his seventh save in nine chances.

“Anytime you lose a one-run game,” Yost said, “you always go back and look at the opportunities in the game. One big hit . The way things are going now, we’re struggling to get that hit.”

The Royals were also sloppy in the field, although Alex Gordon did throw a runner out at the plate. They were a bit unlucky when a missed called by second-base umpire James Hoye denied an inning-ending double play.

Yep, a lot went wrong.

And if you’re still tracking the standings, the Royals are now five games behind first-place Cleveland in the American League Central Division. Just one game out of last place, too.

The Royals took a 1-0 lead on Elliot Johnson’s two-out RBI single in the second inning, but Guthrie saw a one-out walk turn into the tying run in Houston second before giving up two more runs in the third.

Tejada’s first homer since July 16, 2011, was a three-run drive in the fourth that, briefly, put the Royals back in front at 4-3, but Guthrie gave it all back later in the inning on Matt Dominguez’s three-run shot.

“I got into a hitter’s count (3-1) and didn’t make a quality pitch,” Guthrie said. “I was trying to get the fastball down. He was going to be aggressive in that position.”

Little changed over the final four innings.

“It’s been a tough couple of weeks, but I think we’re all right,” said Hosmer, who also had three hits. “No one is in panic mode. We’ve all been through it now, and we know we just have to slow everything down.

“We know we can definitely get hot and put together some good runs. We’re fine. The feeling is, ‘when is this going to happen?’ But it’s different this year. The sense is its going to happen. It’s only a matter of time.”

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