KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Well, the Royals' good fortune at home had to end at some point. So it might as well happen because the opposing pitcher is dealing, the opposing team is hitting and the Royals made some uncharacteristic mistakes.
That was absolutely the formula the Oakland Athletics used to hand the Royals a 5-2 loss on Sunday, one that marked the first time in seven tries a road team has been able to come into Kauffman Stadium and take a series this season.
And for all of the Royals' recent spunk, particularly at home — where they still own the most victories in the majors — this was a day in which the A's won before an announced crowd of 22,435 by outclassing them Royals in every phase of the game.
For instance, Royals starter Jeff Francis was good, but Oakland starter Tyson Ross was better. The Royals' offense hit a few balls hard, but Oakland produced a 12-hit attack. The A's were better defensively, committing only one error to the Royals' two.
The victory was convincing enough that by the time it was over, the Royals had already turned the page, preferring instead to focus on the 6-3 home stand that outfielder Jeff Francoeur correctly predicted would happen a little over a week ago.
"Seven and two would have been nice," Francoeur said, "but Oakland has got a heck of a pitching staff. They always say good pitching beats good hitting."
And that was never more evident than it was Sunday, when Ross, 2-2, used a mid-90s fastball and a sharp slider to limit the Royals to two runs and six hits over six innings. He outdueled Francis, who dropped to 0-4 and allowed two earned runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings, and even provided the play of the day in the second inning.
That's when the Royals, who trailed 2-0 thanks to RBI singles from Conor Jackson (who drove in a runner that reached on a Wilson Betemit throwing error from third base) and Josh Willingham in the first inning, appeared to be on the verge of mounting a rally.
Francoeur led off with a single, and tried to advance to third after infielder Mark Ellis made an off-target throw to second that got past shortstop Cliff Pennington. Seeing that third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff was going after the ball, Ross made a mad dash to third, received Kouzmanoff's throw and dove to the base just in time to tag Francoeur out.
"Tyson just blazed out of nowhere," said Oakland manager Bob Geren. "You should have saw it from my angle. He closed like a horse in a horserace. He just closed the last part of the race.... It might have been the difference in the game, you never know."
It certainly looked like it might be in the sixth inning. After Kouzmanoff gave Oakland a three-run lead with a solo shot off Francis, the Royals cut the deficit to 3-2 with a RBI double by Hosmer — the first RBI of his big-league career — and a RBI single by Mitch Maier.
But any chance the Royals had of tying the game in the inning came to a halt when Betemit, who made a big turn at second on Maier's single, was thrown out by former Royals outfielder David DeJesus while retreating to the bag.
The game was still within reach, but after the Royals blew a chance to tie the game in the seventh — Oakland reliever Michael Wuertz struck out Melky Cabrera with two outs and a runner on third — the A's tacked on a run in the eighth off reliever Tim Collins (the run was credited to Blake Wood) and another in the ninth off reliever Louis Coleman.
Oakland closer Brian Fuentes took of the rest, as he pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up ninth save of the season for the A's, who improved to 18-17 entering their three-game road series against Texas today.
The Royals, 18-16, have an off-day today before they begin a three-game road series against the New York Yankees.
Afterward, Royals manager Ned Yost lamented the two errors his team committed — the other was by Hosmer, the first baseman. However, he insisted he's still happy with his team's performance in all phases of the game.
They'll definitely need to keep it up if they want to avoid what happened on their last road trip, when they went 0-6 in Cleveland and Texas in late April.
"We had a bad road trip last time," Yost said. "But that doesn't mean we're a bad road team."