KANSAS CITY, Mo. —From the manager right down to the players, the Royals were all about honesty on Sunday. A six-game losing streak and a three-game sweep at the hands of the Oakland Athletics will do that to a team, apparently.
So let's go ahead and get it all out there, because the Royals sure did following their latest stinker, a 9-6 loss before an announced crowd of 18,702 at Kauffman Stadium.
Royals manager Ned Yost called a team meeting after the game, and really, he couldn't help it. Not after he watched his team fall behind by eight runs on a sizzling Kansas City afternoon then score five inconsequential runs in the ninth.
"We talked about that as a group after the game," Yost said. "We had a nice little bounce back in the ninth, but if our intensity was a little bit greater in the first eight innings we might have won that game."
But they didn't.
And now, the Royals — a team that had won four series in a row and 10 of 13 games before they were swept by the White Sox before the All-Star break — sit with a 39-52 record that puts them only 1 1/2 games ahead of last-place Cleveland in the American League Central.
For what it's worth, it appears the players — who held a meeting of their own following the game — understood Yost's message.
"It was needed," said outfielder Mitch Maier. "Six games is too many and it's got to stop now."
Catcher Jason Kendall was also critical of the Royals performance on Sunday.
"We played terrible, top-to-bottom," Kendall said.
For the first 8 1/2 innings, that was absolutely the case. And while everybody is being honest, it's worth noting that Royals starter Brian Bannister — who allowed five runs on six hits and tied a career-high with six walks in 6 1/3 innings — was quick to shoulder the blame for the loss.
"I threw too many pitches where, instead of throwing them in the strike zone, I tried to trick (Oakland's hitters) and get them to chase," said Bannister, who left the game in the seventh inning with the Royals trailing 4-1. "It wasn't the right approach, and it was obvious."
Bannister allowed his 19th and 20th home runs of the season, which is easily the highest among all Royals pitchers (the next closest is Zack Greinke with 13).
For all of Bannister's troubles though, the defense — which committed two errors — and lineup were just as much at fault. After Billy Butler gave the Royals a 1-0 lead with an RBI single in the first inning, the bats went silent as Oakland starter Vin Mazzaro (5-2) held the Royals scoreless on five hits until he departed in the eighth with a 6-1 lead.
The A's added what turned out to be three very important runs in the ninth off Victor Marte, as the Royals rallied to score five runs of their own off Oakland relievers Brad Ziegler, Cedrick Bowers and Jerry Blevins.
That's when Oakland closer Andrew Bailey came in and dashed the Royals hopes. Bailey, who entered with a runner on first and two outs, retired Billy Butler on a pop fly to pick up his 20th save.
If you feel like being positive, the five-run inning was a bright spot. But Yost didn't feel that way.
"Because we were flat the first eight innings, that last inning was nice but it doesn't mean anything," Yost said.
The Royals will get a chance to forget Sunday's fiasco when they begin a three-game series at home tonight against Toronto.
With Cleveland riding a four-game winning streak, last place in the Central may only be a few days away if things don't improve.
"If we continue playing like that," said veteran Willie Bloomquist, "it's going to get ugly."