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Royals’ skid hits seven in 8-5 loss to Angels in first game of double-header

It isn’t hard to break down the Royals’ seventh straight loss.

Here is all you need to know about their 8-5 setback on a dreary Tuesday afternoon in the first game of a double-header against the Los Angeles Angels at Kauffman Stadium:

Angels starter Ervin Santana lugged a 6.70 ERA into the game, saw it go up to 6.79, and still handed over a three-run lead when Darren Oliver began the bottom of the seventh inning.

Yep, the Royals stoked their offense for five runs against in six innings against Santana and still weren’t close.

Part of it was an ineffective Sidney Ponson in his first big-league appearance since May 29. Part of it was an increasingly toxic bullpen _ Ron Mahay and Roman Colon in this latest meltdown. And, well, that was plenty.

“We (pitched) up and didn’t get enough strikes out of our bullpen,” manager Trey Hillman said. “You can’t not pitch ahead against that kind of production.”

Santana, 3-5, allowed five runs and eight hits in six innings before Darren Oliver, Kevin Jepsen and Brian Fuentes closed out the victory. Fuentes worked the ninth for his major-league-leading 29th save.

The Angels spread 12 hits throughout a balanced attack. Erick Aybar had three, while Kendry Morales, Mike Napoli and Gary Matthews Jr. had two apiece. Matthews and Reggie Willits each drove in two runs.

Napoli delivered a booming leadoff homer in the sixth inning against Ponson after the Royals took a brief 5-4 lead on Billy Butler’s two-run homer in the fifth.

“Fastball,” Ponson said. “His second at-bat, I went 1-0 on him, and he didn’t swing on the next pitch. So I said, `I’m going to get a strike here.’ He never let me get there. It was right down the middle, and he hit it.”

Ponson compiled a 2.18 ERA in six rehab starts at Class AAA Omaha while recovering from strained right elbow. That success didn’t accompany him back to the big leagues for his first start since May 6. “We lost the game.” Ponson said. “That’s the bottom line. They gave me the lead, and two pitches into the sixth, it was tied back up. No excuses. I didn’t pitch well.”

The final damage was six runs and eight hits in five-plus innings. Ponson fell to 1-6. Mahay walked three of the five hitters he faced and surrendered a sacrifice fly that permitted an inherited runner to score the eventual winning run.

Colon allowed two runs and three hits in 1 1/3 innings.

The Royals fell to 37-55 by losing for the 44th time in their last 63 games. They now need to go 26-44 or better in their remaining 70 games to avoid a fifth 100-loss season in eight years.

The Angels jumped to a 3-0 lead by producing four singles and Jeff Mathis’ squeeze bunt in the second inning. The Royals got one run back in their second when Alex Gordon’s grounder up the middle hit second base and caromed away from the infielders for an RBI single.

Ponson avoided big trouble in the third in limiting LA to one run despite surrendering two hits and throwing a wild pitch.

The Royals then loaded the bases by opening their third with successive singles by Yuniesky Betancourt, David DeJesus and Willie Bloomquist.

Santana nearly escaped by striking out Billy Butler and Mark Teahen before José Guillen drove a two-run single into center.

That trimmed the Angels’ lead to 4-3, and the Royals kept coming.

DeJesus opened the fifth inning with a single to center before Butler drove a 95-mph fastball into the right-field bullpen for a two-run homer and a 5-4 lead. It didn’t last.

Napoli crushed Ponson’s second pitch in the sixth for a 409-foot homer to left. When Aybar followed with a sharp single, the Royals called on Mahay to replace Ponson.

That didn’t work. Mahay walked two hitters, loading the bases, before yielding a sacrifice fly to Willits that gave the Angels a 6-5 lead. Mahay struck out Chone Figgins before reloading the bases with a two-out walk to Macier Izturis.

Colon stranded three runners by retiring Bobby Abreu on a grounder to second but failed to escape his own mess in a two-run seventh.

Morales led off with a single and moved to second on Napoli’s ground out before Aybar ripped an RBI double into the right-field corner. Aybar scored when Matthews lined an RBI single into center.

To reach Bob Dutton send e-mail to bdutton@kcstar.com.

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