KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The weather may have unseasonably cool and comfortable for the A's in Kansas City, but the baseball team they played turned out to be quite hot and nasty.
The scorching Royals chased Oakland out of town Thursday with a five-run seventh inning rally and a 7-3 victory at Kauffman Stadium, beating a third member of the club's Big Four starting staff and hammering perhaps their most dominant reliever of late.
The A's have been baseball's best team all year, but the Royals paid them absolutely no respect in winning three of four games in this series. They pinned losses on Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jeff Samardzija, and ended setup man Ryan Cook's 20-inning scoreless streak. They came up with more clutch hits and stole more bases, and generally outplayed Oakland in all facets with the exception of one lopsided laugher.
In short, the A's learned this is a place they'd probably rather not return to in October, although that's a more distinct possibility as the Royals continue to firm up their standing as a playoff contender. They've won 10 of 11 and are 12 games over .500 for the first time in 11 years. They looked like the real deal.
"We knew exactly who we were playing when we came in here," said Stephen Vogt. "Their pitching staff is one of the best in baseball, and they're showing it. And their lineup grinds out at-bats. They're kind of similar to us in a way. No one's going to come out and wow you. But at the same, 1-9 they are solid, outstanding hitters that just grind out at-bats and make pitchers work."
The A's looked like they might escape with a split when they received a pair of gift runs in the sixth inning after center fielder Jarrod Dyson's dropped two-out fly ball turned into a Josh Reddick RBI triple. Reddick then scored on Albert Callaspo's single to give Oakland a 3-2 lead.
Samardzija followed that up with a shutdown sixth. but the Royals got to Samardzija before he knew what hit him in the seventh. After getting the first out, Samardzija allowed a single to Erik Kratz and a double to Christian Colon, and suddenly he was out. Cook came in to face Dyson and worked to a quick 0-2 count. But Dyson then slapped a ball into right to score one, and Nori Aoki followed with a first-pitch bullet down the right field line for a two-run triple.
Cook said he went with a changeup on Dyson and didn't locate it.
"It's been my best pitch for awhile now, and it's been my put-away pitch to lefties and righties," Cook said. "Right pitch, bad mistake. It's unfortunate, because I felt pretty good. I told myself to miss down and I missed middle. That's really all there is to it. I had all the momentum in that at-bat, too."
"I don't know, I made him look silly the other night on fastballs in," Cook said. "I tried to go in there again. I haven't looked at the film on it, but I thought it was a pretty decent pitch. Good piece of hitting, really. That's a hot baseball team right now. That's why I'm so frustrated about that pitch to Dyson. You can't make mistakes like that when they're hot."
Samardzija, meanwhile, said Cook never should have been put in that position in the first place.
"After getting the first guy out, I need to put the next two guys away right there and get our guys back in the dugout," he said.
The Royals padded their lead on Billy Butler's two-out, two-run double against Oakland's fourth pitcher, Luke Gregerson.
Samardzija (3-2 with the A's, 5-9 overall), surrendered eight hits and four runs (three earned). He didn't walk a batter and struck out five.
So are the A's wheels a bit wobbly after not only taking their lumps here, but losing shortstop Jed Lowrie to the disabled list?
Manager Bob Melvin isn't worried -- yet. One point of concern is that the A's gave up too many two-strike hits in critical situations.
"It means you're in a position to make your pitch, and we just didn't this series," Melvin said. "We have been very good at it, so it's just a very tough series for us. They (the Royals) are doing everything right right now, and they have a lot of different ways to beat you. We just have to get out of here and go play better in Atlanta."
Indeed, and they need two of their most dependable hitters, Coco Crisp and Derek Norris, to find their respective strokes. Crisp went 1 for 12 in the series with just one walk. Norris went 0 for 14 with six strikeouts and two double plays.
Follow Carl Steward on Twitter at twitter.com/stewardsfolly.
A's shortstop Jed Lowrie placed on D.L. with finger injury. PAGE 5
A's (Jason Hammel 9-9) at Atlanta (Alex Wood 8-9), 4:35 p.m. CSNCA
A look at some key numbers since the A's traded slugger Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox for ace Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes:
A's stat Before After
Record 66-41 7-7
Division lead +2 +2
Starters' ERA 3.32 3.46
Runs per game 5.0 3.9
Cespedes Avg. HR RBI
With A's .256 17 57
With Boston .239 2 8
Lester W L ERA
With Boston 10 7 2.52
With A's 3 0 2.49
Gomes Avg. HR RBI
With Boston .234 6 32
With A's .286 0 3