Bullpen blues: Royals drop opener

Bullpen blues: Royals drop opener

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals pounded out 14 hits, tied a franchise record with four sacrifice flies, saw Mike Sweeney break out of an early April swoon and got a solid start from Mark Redman.

But even those ingredients weren't enough to produce a winning recipe.

With Jhonny Peralta smashing a three-run double that snapped a seventh-inning tie, the Cleveland Indians held off Kansas City, 6-5, on Friday night and sent the Royals tumbling to an 11th consecutive loss.

Manager Buddy Bell must be wondering what it's going to take for his club to get over the hump. Unlike the recent series in Chicago, the Royals (2-13) kept pecking away offensively. But Cleveland had just enough to keep Kansas City winless for a 13th consecutive day.

"We came close tonight, but in baseball that's not good enough," Sweeney said. "Tough loss."

The silver lining for the Royals was seeing Sweeney go 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles. He came into the game just 5-for-40. If the main man starts to get hot, perhaps the rest of the offense will follow.

"The last few weeks I haven't swung the bat at all like I'm capable of," Sweeney said. "Hopefully, tonight will be a turning point for me where I can get back on track. The main point is winning. I'd exchange those hits tonight and be hovering around .100 if we could have gotten a win tonight."

Redman, making his second start after beginning the season on the disabled list, wobbled in the first when he surrendered two runs. But Redman allowed just one run over the next five innings to record a quality start. When the Royals rallied against Cliff Lee in the sixth with a three-run uprising to tie the game, it seemed that Kansas City might have the momentum to end the double-digit losing streak.

But after breaking a 20-inning scoreless streak, the Royals couldn't stop Cleveland in the fateful seventh.

Reliever Elmer Dessens, who started the season in dazzling fashion, lost the big matchup against Peralta with the bases loaded and two outs. Had Dessens been able to get Peralta and keep the game tied, the Royals would have had plenty of positive vibes. Peralta, however, lined his clean double over third baseman Mark Teahen's head to clear the bases.

"I was one pitch away," Dessens said. "I tried so hard to get that out."

The Royals continued to scrap against Cleveland closer Bob Wickman in the ninth. A single by Mark Grudzielanek and Sweeney's double, which nearly cleared left fielder Jason Michaels' glove for a home run, set up a second-and-third situation. But the Royals could only muster a couple of sacrifice flies, which left them in a tie for the third-longest losing streak in club history. Kansas City dropped 19 straight last year and had a 12-game skid in 1997. The other 11-game losing streak came in 1986.

Redman wound up surrendering just five hits and three of them came in the first. If the left-hander can build on Friday's effort, the starting rotation picture won't seem quite so blurry.

"I felt like I pitched my game today," Redman said. "I used the fastball in and out, the changeup and incorporated the curve that I've been working on. We just need to catch a break and get that big hit with runners in scoring position."

Some nights, it has been the starting pitchers unable to produce early. Other nights, it has been the bullpen unable to produce with Kansas City tied or in the lead. The Royals believe the time is coming when the starting pitching, bullpen, defense and offense will come together in perfect harmony.

The four sacrifice flies were the most by a Kansas City club since Sept. 17, 1979. But while the Royals executed by moving runners, they weren't able to deliver what might have been a knockout blow in key situations.

"We're all men in here and we've come together as well as we can, given how bad we're playing," Sweeney said. "Hopefully, when we turn it around, we'll look back and say this was a time when we came together."

Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.