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Royals sputter in loss to Cardinals

Royals sputter in loss to Cardinals

ST. LOUIS -- Needing a jolt to kick-start a dismal season, Scott Elarton started looking at old tapes from past seasons, tapes that revealed a right-hander with a short arm angle, a consistent fastball and quality, deceptive stuff.

Elarton couldn't channel those performances Tuesday night.

Instead, he took another step backwards against the Cardinals, allowing five runs in 2 2/3 innings as the Royals lost, 5-1, at Busch Stadium. The defeat marked the second straight aborted start for Elarton against the Redbirds. Five days ago, he permitted six runs in two-plus innings at Kauffman Stadium.

"I was just bad," Elarton said. "Once again."

It's a refrain that Elarton has repeated several times since returning from shoulder surgery in mid-May. The right-hander hasn't worked at least six innings in any of his eight starts. Tuesday was the seventh straight time he was scorched for at least four earned runs.

"I am not where I would like to be," he said. "It's definitely a struggle. I have been here before, unfortunately. I am not going to give up, but it's a struggle."

Elarton, who said he is pain-free, has compiled a 9.17 ERA in his outings, allowing 12 homers, 19 walks and 47 hits in 35 1/3 innings pitched. Among the 342 pitchers with at least 20 Major League innings this season, Elarton ranks No. 339 in ERA.

Manager Buddy Bell will make a decision on Elarton's future in the coming days.

"We have to think this thing through and see what is best for everyone concerned," Bell said. "He competes so doggone hard that you hate to see it happen to him, but you have to wait and see."

In the past few days, Elarton pulled out some video from his years with Cleveland. The right-hander pitched for the Indians from 2004-05, collecting a 14-14 record and a 4.67 ERA in 51 starts.

He saw a different pitcher, a pitcher that he has tried to emulate since he was recalled from the disabled list, a pitcher with shorter arm action and a shorter stride.

"When I was with Cleveland and my arm action was quite a bit shorter," he said. "I had a little bit of a hitch in my arm action and it hasn't been there since coming back from surgery."

"When you are rehabbing, you want to lengthen everything out and get everything strong, but then eventually you have to go back to what got you here and what kept you here," he added. "I am just trying to get that back."

When he has success, Elarton brings his arm right out of his glove and up to throw. Now, he's doing things differently -- causing a decrease in stuff and velocity.

"I have been getting too low on the backside and I can't catch up and everything is flat," he said. "Tonight it wasn't really flat. The fastball had good movement and speed, but the stuff wasn't there and the velocity was down. It's frustrating, but I have been here before and I know that it can be done."

Compared to his last start, Elarton thought he made progress, but it was far from where he could be.

"I was somewhere in between where I was last time and where I need to be," he said. "I just have to make the adjustment faster. There didn't look like there was any adjustment made."

And the Cardinals hit him. After a scoreless first inning, Chris Duncan hit a two-run second-inning homer off a changeup that barely cleared the center-field fence. Duncan is 3-for-4 with three homers against Elarton in his career.

"He sees the ball real well," he said. "It doesn't matter what I am throwing to him. ... The offspeed pitches hurt me tonight."

St. Louis tallied three singles, a walk and a sacrifice fly before Neal Musser relieved Elarton after 41 pitches, 25 of them strikes.

"He was probably more wild in the strike zone than anything else," Bell said. "His angle that he uses for his deception wasn't too bad tonight. His stuff wasn't there. The command is not where it needs to be."

Offensively, the Royals scored once off Brad Thompson -- the same pitcher who KC hit for eight runs last week at Kauffman Stadium. But Elarton's pitching put them in too deep of a hole.

Afterward, Elarton still remained confident that he could turn things around and recapture his Cleveland days.

"Every time out, I feel like it is going to be the time that I throw like I am capable," he said. "That's not the matter in question. That's not who I am. I believe it every time."

Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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