Callaspo's error sends KC to tough loss
Struggles continue for Royals, who waste Ponson's start
KANSAS CITY -- Here's how frustrating things are at Kauffman Stadium these days.
The Texas Rangers, a team that was sickened by the flu bug this week -- including one starting pitcher who was quarantined with swine flu -- came into town and beat the Royals two out of three times.
And the latest setback -- Sunday's 7-2 loss in front of 16,847 at Kauffman Stadium -- was decided when the Royals' Alberto Callaspo lost a fly ball in the sun.
The news just gets grimmer every day. The Royals, after snapping a 10-game losing streak on Saturday, have now lost 13 of their last 15. They finished 1-8 on their first homestand of the second half, and the stat that always stings: The Royals are 20-48 since May 7.
"These guys, they feel the pressure in front of the hometown fans," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "They feel the disappointment. They know what they want. And they're frustrated not being able to produce."
The frustration came to a boil in the seventh, when Callaspo lost his battle with Mother Nature, and the Royals let a scoreless ballgame turn into a 3-0 deficit.
With runners at the corners and two out in the seventh, Ian Kinsler hit a high popup into shallow right. Callaspo couldn't see it from the start, and he looked to his right at shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt for help. Callaspo was able to locate the ball at the last moment, but it ricocheted off his glove for an error.
The Rangers' Nelson Cruz scored on the play, and Texas would add two more unearned runs before the end of the inning.
"It always takes the emotion out of you when you give up three unearned runs in one inning," Hillman said. "That happens regardless of how you're going. But it happens even more so when you've only got a couple hits on the board and you're having a miserable time offensively."
The Rangers had two pitchers responsible for all those miserable offensive numbers.
Starter Kevin Millwood -- who left with an injury after two innings -- and reliever Dustin Nippert combined to throw 6 2/3 shutout innings before Alex Gordon singled home Mark Teahen in the bottom of the seventh.
"The story of the game was Nip and the sun," Rangers third baseman Michael Young said. "We got the sun ball, and after that, we came alive."
The lack of run support wasted a solid start from starter Sidney Ponson, who tossed six scoreless innings. Ponson worked out of trouble all day, and he paid a price when his pitch count of 102 forced him to take a seat after the sixth.
"I would have loved to go at least one more inning or two," Ponson said.
Gordon's RBI cut the Rangers' lead to 3-1, but the Royals' eighth-inning curse lived on for another day, as struggling reliever Juan Cruz allowed four more runs in the top of the eighth.
The Royals' bullpen posted an ERA of 9.69 -- 28 runs in 26 innings -- during the homestand.
The Rangers were a few feet away from taking the lead in the first inning.
Texas sandwiched two walks around a fielder's choice to put runners on first and second with two outs. Hank Blalock followed with a single to left, but Ponson escaped when David DeJesus threw out David Murphy at home to end the inning.
The Royals' only early scoring opportunity came in the bottom of the second.
Callaspo started things off by reaching on an error with one out, and Miguel Olivo followed with a single to left. But the rally faded quickly when John Buck struck out and Gordon bounced a slow chopper to first.
The Royals' offense hit the snooze button for the next four innings. Millwood and Nippert combined to retire 12 batters in a row until Ryan Freel reached on a walk in the bottom of the sixth.
The Royals will now embark on an eight-game road trip starting in Baltimore on Monday. Their homestand debacle is over, and perhaps a change of scenery will provide some relief.
"When things are going this bad, obviously any type of change helps shake things up," said Buck, who added an RBI single in the ninth to make the score a little more presentable. "Hopefully, going on the road will be that change for us."
But Teahen offered up some blunt honesty as well. Home. Road. The location doesn't really matter.
"Relief," Teahen said, "will come when we start playing better baseball."
Rustin Dodd is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.