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Royals’ chance to rally slides away in loss to Angels

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, Sep. 16, 2012, at 6:22 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, Sep. 16, 2012, at 6:23 p.m.

— No late magic this time.

On Saturday night there was a raucous comeback. Two late home runs. Gatorade baths. The whole deal. On Sunday afternoon, there was only a base-runner sliding into a crucial out and a 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the series finale at Kauffman Stadium.

The Royals had a short burst of hope in the ninth inning when Mike Moustakas blooped a soft single into left field with one out. That brought on pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson and a stolen-base attempt that everybody knew was coming. Dyson took off. Angels catcher Bobby Wilson unleashed a throw. And Dyson slid in just in time … until his momentum carried him past the bag and shortstop Erick Aybar kept the tag on him.

These are the hazards of what speed can do. After his jump, Dyson had thought the throw would beat him … so he kicked into another gear.

“I like pushed too hard,” Dyson said, “and just slid a little late and just kept sliding.”

“The problem is,” Royals manager Ned Yost added, “it takes him 20 feet to stop sliding; he’s so fast.”

Moments later, Jeff Francoeur ended the game by flying out to right against Angels reliever Kevin Jepsen. After claiming two straight series victories, the Royals dropped two of three against the Angels at home — the lone victory coming after Salvy Perez’s walk-off party blast on Saturday night. The Royals dropped to 66-80 with 16 games remaining — all against AL Central foes.

Angels starter Dan Haren picked up the victory after surrendering two earned runs over 5 2/3 innings. Haren, who evened his record at 11-11, also racked up five strikeouts. Royals rookie Will Smith drew the loss after allowing four runs and seven hits over five innings.

The outing came just five days after Smith threw seven shutout innings against Minnesota. But on Sunday, the damage came early. A single run in the first. And then the decisive hammer: a three-run blast by Angels first baseman Mark Trumbo in the top of the second.

“Two-seamer right down the middle,” Smith said.

Smith was the victim of some tough luck, including a soft single by former Royal Alberto Callaspo that landed safely between Francoeur and center fielder Jason Bourgeois in right-center field before Trumbo’s homer. Francoeur was playing shallow and on the line. Bourgeois was mostly straight up. It made for a bad combination.

“Playing in on Callaspo,” Francoeur said.

Trumbo’s homer made it 4-0. And you may also recall that this was the same Trumbo that put on a show in the Home Run Derby earlier this summer, roofing a couple of balls onto the Royals Hall of Fame in left field.

“It didn’t start off the way I wanted it to,” said Smith, who dropped to 5-8 with a 5.08 ERA on the season. “The early run in the first; the three-run homer in the second. But it’s just one of those days you have to keep battling, battling, battling — giving your offense a chance to make a comeback.”

And Smith mostly did.

The Royals trimmed the lead to 4-1 in the bottom of the second after Perez led off the inning with a double and then came around to score after Moustakas and Francoeur followed with back-to-back groundouts.

Second baseman Tony Abreu sliced into the lead even more with a leadoff homer in the third. It was Abreu’s first homer since Sept. 26, 2010, when he was a member of the Diamondbacks.

The baby-step comeback continued in the fourth when the Royals were gifted a run on an error by Aybar. Billy Butler had led off the inning with a double before Haren responded by striking out Perez and Moustakas. Francoeur followed with a grounder to short, and while Francoeur would have probably beat the throw, Aybar threw wild to first, and Butler was able to chug home. That made it 4-3.

Smith, meanwhile, had settled down after his early struggles, throwing three scoreless innings before exiting for Louis Coleman after the fifth. (Smith’s final batter was Albert Pujols, who drilled a double off the center-field wall before getting a little greedy and being thrown out at third base on a solid relay combo.) Coleman worked a clean sixth before Aaron Crow came on for a scoreless seventh.

Right-hander Kelvin Herrera cruised through a scoreless eighth inning; he’s now allowed four earned runs in his last 26 1/3 innings (1.37 ERA) in August and September.

But the Royals had no answer against the Angels’ stellar bullpen. Nick Maronde, Garrett Richards, Scott Downs and Jordan Walden passed the baton for 2 1/3 scoreless innings before Jepsen earned the save.

For three days, the Royals played the Angels close. On Sunday, that took a little sting off the loss, but not much.

“Maybe a little bit but not a whole lot,” Yost said. “We’re kind of, as a group, past the comfort stage of hanging with teams. We want to win games.”

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