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Royals’ winning streak ends at six in 4-1 loss to Angels

ANAHEIM, Calif. _ Lack of speed kills, too.

Jose Guillen’s increasingly glacial gait cost the Royals on two occasions Friday night as their winning streak ended at six games in a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium.

Both instances occurred in the pivotal sixth inning.

The costlier occasion, by far, was his difficulty in reaching Howie Kendrick’s high fly near the right-field line. What should have been a routine out turned into a two-run, inside-the-park homer when Guillen barely got to the ball and muffed the catch.

“I just missed that ball,” Guillen said. “I got under it. I just missed it. I closed the glove before the ball got there. No excuse. That’s a play you should make.

“I got there in time. I just missed it.”

The ball rolled behind him to the wall, and Kendrick easily circled the bases. That turned a 2-1 deficit into 4-1 against the Angels’ bullpen.

“(Guillen) was going full speed,” manager Trey Hillman said. “Sometimes, that happens. That was unfortunate timing. You’d prefer that ball to be caught. No doubt about it.”

The other problem is the game likely should have been tied when Kendrick lofted his fly.

The Royals, trailing 2-0, had runners at first and third with one out when Billy Butler rocked a drive over the head of center fielder Torii Hunter in the top of the sixth. The runner from first, Guillen, had to stop at third. “He’s not complaining about any pain in his lower half,” Hillman said. “But there are times that his legs look a little bit heavy. Tonight was one of those times.”

That proved costly when Angels reliever Darren Oliver stranded runners at second and third by striking out Mike Jacobs and retiring Alberto Callaspo on a fly to center.

So it wasn’t just Guillen. A base-hit from either Jacobs or Callaspo might have put the Royals on top. Even a fly ball from Jacobs, if deep enough, might have tied the game.

And it was just those sorts of pick-me-ups the Royals produced repeatedly in their winning streak. Not Friday, though.

The Royals finished with just four hits.

Kendrick’s homer helped pin a loss on Gil Meche and probably cost him a quality start. Meche, 2-3, allowed four runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings. He exited after throwing 120 pitches.

Meche could also point to his own two-out problems in allowing the Angels to build a 2-0 lead. He surrendered two-out RBI singles to Jeff Mathis in the second inning, and to Mike Napoli in the third.

“I had good stuff out there,” Meche said. “A little erratic at times. But for me, the biggest thing is my back is not bothering me at all. That’s been a concern the last couple of weeks.

“Now, two starts in a row, my pitch count has gotten pretty high. That shows I can go out there and throw a lot of pitches with my back not getting stiff. That’s a plus.”

The loss dropped the Royals to 18-12 and trimmed their lead over second-place Detroit in the American League Central Division to two games. Angels starter Matt Palmer improved to 3-0 after limiting the Royals to one run and two hits in 5 1/3 innings. Palmer, 30, is a Missouri kid who grew up in the Bootheel town of Caruthersville before attending Three Rivers Community College and Missouri State.

He spent seven years in the Giants’ organization before signing in January with the Angels as a minor-league free agent.

Palmer had not shown much before this season _ making just three big-league appearances before this season while compiling a 40-35 record in the minors. He was a swingman who actually logged more time as a reliever.

He got his chance when injuries forced four LA starters _ John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Kelvim Escobar and Dustin Moseley _ to the disabled list. The Angels also lost Nick Adenhart, who died last month in an auto accident.

“Palmer did a really good job of cutting the ball and hitting his spots,” Hillman said. “We weren’t able to do much with it. No excuse. We’ve got to be able to make adjustments.”

Palmer handed a 2-0 lead to Oliver with runners at first and third in the sixth with one out. Oliver yielded Butler’s double but no runs of his own in 1 2/3 innings.

Jose Arredondo retired three straight batters in the eighth before Brian Fuentes closed out the victory for his eighth save in 10 opportunities.

So the streak is over. The Royals will try to answer tonight when Zack Greinke, 6-0, looks to win his 10th straight start over two seasons. To reach Bob Dutton, send e-mail to bdutton@kcstar.com.

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