KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If you had to pick the unhappiest member of the A's in the wake of Monday night's 3-2 loss to the sizzling Kansas City Royals, it would have been a tough call among Sonny Gray, Josh Reddick and Derek Norris.

But Gray probably took ugly-face honors. Disgust was palpable in his words and demeanor as he reflected on giving up the go-ahead single with two outs in the seventh inning -- on an 0-2 count, no less -- to the Royals' No. 9 hitter, Alcides Escobar.

"It's probably the best I've felt all year," said Gray (12-6), who took his second tough loss to the Royals in 11 days. "It's a hard one to swallow. Right pitch, wrong spot. It didn't matter if I would have located it, but I didn't, and he put a good swing on it."

Gray had thrown two curveballs in a row to Escobar and had him set up for a third, which was supposed to be in the dirt.

"He's just trying to bounce it to get the guy to chase and didn't get it all the way to the ground," said manager Bob Melvin.

And there you go. As the Giants learned so rudely over the weekend, there is very little margin for error at the moment against these Royals, who have won eight straight games, 16 of 19, and took over first place in the American League Central with their victory over the A's. Oh yeah, and just before the game, they traded for A's tormentor Josh Willingham, who homered against Oakland while with the Twins on Sunday.


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Mistakes that might not have been so costly against another team came up big in the final analysis. In the first inning, Reddick weirdly flubbed a throw that allowed K.C. leadoff man Jarrod Dyson to advance to third, and Dyson subsequently scored on a double-play grounder.

"It's not a good feeling, it's pretty embarrassing, especially since it cost us a run," said Reddick. "When you lose by one run, it doesn't make you feel any better, especially the way our offense has been going. Defensive mistakes are pretty big right now, and for me, it's just something that never happens. It just takes that much more of a toll on you."

As for Norris, he had a chance to take both Gray and Reddick off the hook in the ninth after Josh Donaldson singled and Brandon Moss walked to put runners at first and second with nobody out. Melvin said he eschewed the sacrifice bunt with his big hitters coming up and the tying run already on second.

But then came the worst possible development -- Norris, who was hitting a remarkable .514 with runners in scoring position and less than two out (18 for 35) this year -- hit a one-hop double-play grounder to third, and closer Greg Holland then retired Stephen Vogt on a fly to center for the final out.

"He threw a two-seamer that looked good for 59 feet," Norris said. "It just took off inside and jammed me, double play. I pride myself on situational hitting. I feel I've done a damn good job of it, and to get an opportunity like that -- first and second, no outs -- a lot of people would bunt. But the skipper showed positive thoughts toward me and wanted me to hit, and I couldn't cash in. I've got to be better."

Perhaps the A's were being a bit too hard on themselves. After all, they did manage just three hits against four hard-throwing Kansas City pitchers who combined to strike out 10. Are these Royals for real? Melvin is at least convinced by the flamethrowers coming out of the bullpen -- Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Holland -- all of whom bring the heat in the 97-98 mph neighborhood. Herrera popped a handful of pitches at 100 mph.

"Those three guys are about as good as you get," Melvin said. "They don't worry about righty-lefty, they all get both out, and when they get to the seventh inning with the lead, they feel pretty good about it."

And even though he had control issues on this night, rookie starter Yordano Ventura was right there in the 97-98 Club as well. It offered the powerful notion that for all the talk about the Detroit Tigers, this is the team Oakland could have to deal with in the playoffs.

"That's a pretty good team, and their pitching definitely does help quite a bit," said John Jaso, who scored one of the A's two runs in the third. Jaso singled in front of Moss' two-out, two-run single that tied the score at 2-2. It was a good development for Moss, who had just one RBI since July 25 spanning 53 at-bats. But it was the only run-scoring hit the A's would get.