KANSAS CITY. Mo. —It's a sign of the implosion the Royals are experiencing these days that it came as good news Wednesday when they avoided setting a franchise record for the most runs allowed in a four-game span.
Removed from context, this 6-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins was fairly entertaining stuff starting with Delmon Young's towering three-run homer in the first inning against Brian Bannister.
"Delmon is definitely different from the Delmon we've seen in the past," Bannister said. "I think he's the hottest hitter in baseball right now."
The Twins then added single runs in the second and fourth innings before the Royals made things interesting.
First, they nicked Minnesota starter Brian Duensing (4-1) for two runs in the fifth.
Duensing pitched through the sixth before the Minnesota bullpen wobbled through the final three innings. A misplay by shortstop J.J. Hardy, later inexplicably changed from an error to a hit, led to two runs in the eighth.
The comeback ended when Jose Mihares stranded runners at first and third by retiring Brayan Pena on a fly to center.
The Twins added an insurance run in the ninth on Jason Kubel's sacrifice fly against Joakim Soria before Jon Rauch closed out the three-game sweep with a scoreless inning for his 21st save in 25 chances.
"Our guys didn't cave in," manager Ned Yost said. "They battled back, and we had the (go-ahead) run on first base in the bottom of the eighth inning."
Now put the context back in.
The Royals lost their fourth straight game. It was also their sixth loss in seven games, and their 13th in 16. They fell to 42-59, which puts them 17 games under .500 for the first time since the end of last season. They're back in the cellar of the American League Central Division.
It gets worse.
The Twins' 14 hits pushed the Royals' yield to a franchise-record 67 for a four-game span. The previous record was 63 from Aug. 6-10, 2005 in losses nine through 12 of what ended as a franchise-record 19-game skid.
As noted above, the Royals did manage to avoid setting a club record for runs surrendered over four games by topping out at 48 — three shy of what they allowed Sept. 4-8, 2002.
That record runs-allowed streak began with a 12-11 loss at Oakland when the Royals erased an 11-0 deficit before losing on Scott Hatteberg's homer in the ninth against Jason Grimsley.
It concluded with the Mariners scoring eight runs in the 11th inning against Blake Stein and Kris Wilson for a 16-9 victory at Kauffman Stadium.
For now, that low point remains on the books. For now.
"It's easy to get sucked into losing," left fielder Scott Podsednik said. "I don't want to say we're accepting it, but when a couple runs go up, it's almost as if you feel like here we go again.
"It's what we're trying to change around here, but that hasn't been the case."
This one was competitive in part because just-recalled Bryan Bullington produced two scoreless innings after replacing Bannister, who lost his fifth straight decision and fell to 7-10. Bannister allowed five runs and 11 hits in six-plus innings.
Hardy's off-line throw helped the Royals load the bases with one out in the eighth. Mike Aviles fouled out to first, but Rick Ankiel shot a two-run single into center before Pena's fly out.
"Yeah, it's tough," Yost said. "But turning this thing around is going to be tough. You've got to be able to withstand that and handle the difficulties. You've got to be able to handle the frustration.
"You've got to be able to handle everything the goes with it to battle yourself through this. And, yeah, we've got to have some success."
Tonight offers, perhaps, an assist from the schedule-maker when Baltimore lugs baseball's worst record into town for the start of a four-game weekend series. Opportunities don't come any better.
"It's no fun getting your face dragged through the mud like we have," right fielder Willie Bloomquist said. "At some point in time, losing is going to eat at you. It's certainly eating at me, and it's eating at a number of guys in here."