A's stuck in funk with loss to Royals

A's stuck in funk with loss to Royals

OAKLAND -- On the same day Angels staff stud John Lackey came two outs away from a no-hitter in Boston, the already loaded Halos added Mark Teixeira to their powerhouse of a division-leading team.

Just another day for the Angels.

Back in Oakland about 3,000 miles away, the A's managed just five hits while striking out nine times in a 5-2 loss to Kansas City -- increasing their American League-leading strikeout count to 805 while tallying their ninth loss in the last 11 games.

Just another day for the A's.

So goes the story for Oakland, which jump-started the season with a surprisingly successful first half while staying in contention with the Angels before quickly spiraling into a not-so-glamorous trend of -- well, losing.

And aside from a two-hit night from Mark Ellis, who entered the game batting under the .100 mark over his last 19 games, all 12,182 A's fans in attendance left McAfee Coliseum with not much else to talk about -- besides the obvious gotta-end-this-slump mantra.

"It's not fun," Ellis said of the team's offensive woes. "We've got to keep working to have good at-bats as a team. We've got to make pitchers work more."

They've got to do something. With the loss, they dropped to the .500 mark for the first time since April 8 -- when they were 4-4 -- and are now a season-high 13 games behind those ever-so-dominant Angels.

Tuesday's game may have well been titled a repeat from Monday, when two two-run homers off starter Dallas Braden were enough to put the A's away, 4-1. Tuesday's show gave its audience more of the same, as two homers against Greg Smith resulted in four Royals runs.

The first, a solo shot by Mike Aviles in the sixth, put Kansas City ahead, 2-1. The final one, though, is what left the Oakland contingent with a "not again"-type feeling. Smith began the inning by walking Jose Guillen before surrendering a double to Alex Gordon. With runners on first and third and two outs with former A's farmhand John Buck coming to the plate, pitching coach Curt Young made a visit to the mound.

"We talked about the open base with the lefty on deck," Smith explained. "We had a game plan."

All did not go according to plan, though. After tossing a strike down the zone, Smith could only watch as Buck cleared the bases and gave the Royals a 5-1 lead.

"I left the ball over the middle of the plate," the southpaw said. "It was a stupid pitch, basically ... to be blunt."

Four runs on two pitches. Other than that, manager Bob Geren had no complaints with his pitcher.

"I thought he pitched extremely well," he said. "It was one of his sharpest outings."

Alas, it marked the 12th time in 20 starts Smith received one or no runs of support. So Tuesday's showing may not have been all that much of a surprise for the A's, but isn't it getting a little tiresome?

"To be honest, a little bit," Geren said. "There's gonna be ups and downs in baseball, though. You expect that when playing for six months ... but we need to get some big hits ourselves."

Oakland's first run of the game did not come courtesy of a big hit, but rather from an RBI single off the bat of Ellis in the fourth frame. The A's veteran second baseman, though, knows a run-scoring single won't win ballgames.

"We're not scoring a lot of runs," he said. "That's the whole key to everything. We have a reputation as a team to be patient, so guys like to throw strikes at us right away."

Hitting said strikes in a consecutive manner may be a good start, and the consensus in the A's clubhouse is that such a scenario is bound to happen -- it's just a matter of when.

"I got all the faith in the world for these guys," Smith said. "At this point, it's just not working for us."

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