CLEVELAND -- This certainly isn't the way the Royals want to be winding down the season. Not with the emphasis on down.
Yet the Royals were dealt their sixth consecutive loss, 8-5, by the Cleveland Indians on a cool Friday night at Progressive Field. This is a disappointing change for a club that, beginning on July 31, had a 29-21 record until this string of defeats.
It's Kansas City's second longest skid of the season, surpassed only by the 12 straight losses in an agonizing April. Hopeful hint: that slide ended in the second game of a series at Cleveland.
The Indians' victory came in their first game under interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr.
"Obviously, every day is not going to be this way. There are going to be days more stressful than others," Alomar said. "When Kansas City came back a little bit and scored a few runs, it made it interesting. That's the part where you really start going, 'OK, you've got to do a little bit of thinking here and use everybody else, and bring in the bullpen a little earlier than you wanted to.'"
At least Alomar got six innings out of left-hander David Huff. Royals manager Ned Yost had to bring in his bullpen a lot earlier than he planned.
Royals left-hander Will Smith had the briefest outing of his 16-start rookie season, just three-plus innings. He was swamped by nine hits, two walks and six runs. And, by the fifth inning, the Royals found themselves behind, 8-1.
"We just started out behind the 8-ball," the Royals' Billy Butler said, being numerically correct. "We just didn't play very good."
Butler, though, put some life into the Royals' side of things with his 29th homer, a two-run shot off Huff in the sixth inning. Alex Gordon was on base, so Butler's RBI total reached a career-high 106.
Reaching the 30 mark in homers would be a first for Butler, too.
"I'll talk about 30 when I get there," he said.
Gordon opened the eighth inning with his third single, and this time Butler followed with a double to the left-field wall. Both scored on Salvador Perez's single to left. All of that was against reliever Scott Maine, so he was pulled and Joe Smith took over. He got three straight outs to preserve the Tribe's three-run lead.
"We just got down a little too much too early," Gordon said. "We tried to come back. Billy did great job. We just came up a little short."
Will Smith had a 1-0 lead before the Indians made his evening miserable. Perez singled to start the Royals' second inning, advanced on Mike Moustakas' single and scored on Adam Moore's double off the left-field wall. But there Huff shut things off.
The crowd of 14,805 watched as the Indians bunched five hits in the second inning for three runs and added another run in the third. When Ezequiel Carrera singled and scored on Shin-Soo Choo's second RBI double to start the fourth, Smith's last start of the season was over.
"You always want to finish strong, but tonight I just wasn't very good," Smith said. "Too many pitches up, I just wasn't controlling the ball today. And that's just what's going to happen with a Major League team -- they're going to hit you around and score a bunch of runs."
Smith had won his first two starts against the Indians.
From the Royals' bullpen came Everett Teaford, Vin Mazzaro and even closer Greg Holland. It was a matter of Holland needing to get some work -- this was his first outing in a week. He didn't look rusty -- striking out both batters he faced.
The Tribe now is on a bit of a roll with four wins in their last five games. And they've won three straight for the first time since way back on July 3-5.
The Royals were coming off a grinding, four-game series at Detroit, which the Tigers swept as they took over first place in the American League Central.
"We played good in Detroit, man. We ran into some good arms," Butler said. "We kicked the ball around a little bit [Thursday] but the other three games we played well enough to win, we just ran into some good pitching."
Those grim memories of April's long losing streak makes Gordon even more determined that the Royals will turn things around in the last five games of the season.
"We're not playing bad, we're just not catching breaks," Gordon said. "We're not putting it together, but I'm happy with the way of the guys are playing. We're playing hard, but just need to find a way to finish this road trip strong and then have a good series at home against Detroit. Go into the offseason with a good mentality."
And without a losing streak to look back on.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.