KANSAS CITY -- Young teams are bound to have their growing pains from time to time and the Astros had an achy kind of Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium.
It started badly and went from there for Houston as the offense, defense and pitching all struggled in a 7-2 loss to the Royals. The Astros had been highly competitive in the series opener on Friday, but a lack of clutch hitting with men on base did them in. This time, however, Houston received some shaky outfield defense in a two-run Royals first and the tone was set for a disappointing evening.
"I think that was probably the worst game we've played all year," Astros manager Bo Porter said.
The Royals didn't waste any time in jumping to the lead against Astros starter Erik Bedard. David Lough lined a leadoff single to center and Brandon Barnes fumbled the ball for an error as Lough reached second. Bedard retired Alcides Escobar, but Salvador Perez delivered an RBI single. With two outs, Eric Hosmer hit a high fly ball to the left-field corner and it appeared to fool J.D. Martinez. The ball eluded Martinez's glove for an RBI double.
"Whenever you advance the runner an extra base, it increases the other team's chances of scoring," Porter said. "Then you look at the play down the left-field line, a play that could have or should have been made. Looking from the dugout, it looked like a play that could have been made. Now, the inning is over. Instead, it's a double and an RBI, and the inning goes on. Then, the pitcher has to throw more pitches."
Kansas City starter Ervin Santana, who hasn't received much run support this year, took that 2-0 lead and ran with it. The Astros managed just one hit -- a Matt Dominguez single -- through five innings. Meanwhile, the Royals were able to knock out Bedard in rapid fashion while tacking on three runs in the fourth and another in the fifth.
"We didn't come ready to play today," Barnes said. "We had some mental errors and some physical errors. Some days, you're not going to feel great. But you've got to find a way to grind it out."
The first five Kansas City hitters reached in the fourth and Miguel Tejada and Jeff Francoeur had run-scoring hits. Another run scored on Lough's double-play bouncer.
It was 6-0 before the Astros could muster anything on offense. A run-scoring single by Jose Altuve in the sixth and a solo homer by Chris Carter in the seventh represented the only blemishes for Santana.
"His slider was working great and he was locating his fastball," Barnes said. "He was mixing it up and keeping us off-balance." Bedard worked just 4 2/3 innings, allowing eight hits and six earned runs. With better defense behind him, he might have fared much better. But one of Houston's three errors was committed by the veteran left-hander.
There were mental miscues as well. Veteran Carlos Pena was hit by a pitch to start the seventh with the Astros down, 6-1. Pena tried to advance when a low Santana pitch rolled a short distance from Perez. The strong-armed Perez pounced on the ball and easily threw out Pena at second. Carter then followed with his homer.
The Astros (22-41) have dropped three in a row while the Royals (27-32) have won four straight. Santana went seven innings and allowed five hits and two runs. The victory for Santana was the 100th of his career.
"It means a lot to me, a dream come true" Santana said of the milestone win. "It's just something that's very exciting for me."
Royals manager Ned Yost liked what he saw from his veteran right-hander, who has gone at least six innings in all 12 starts this year.
"It was his command more than anything else," Yost said. "He just looked dominant at times."
Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.