Royals falter in late innings, suffer 5-4 loss to Angels

Whit Merrifield was thrown out trying to steal second base with two outs in the ninth inning of the Royals' loss to the Angels on Friday.
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Los Angeles Angels are off to a sizzling start, thanks to contributions from all over their lineup.

Albert Pujols homered and drove in three runs, Ian Kinsler had three hits and a sacrifice fly that scored Shohei Ohtani with the go-ahead run in the eighth inning and the Angels rallied to beat the Royals 5-4 on Friday night.

The Angels have won six straight and nine of 10. Their 12-3 start matches their best record after 15 games, set in 1979.

“We’re just playing well right now,” Pujols said. “We’re just kind of picking each other up. We had a great spring and we’re carrying that into the season. And that’s what we do every day, try to have fun and enjoy it. It’s a great mix of veteran players and young players. You’re hungry every day.”

Zack Cozart and Ohtani, who doubled in his first at-bat, led off the eighth with singles off Justin Grimm (0-2). After Andrelton Simmons advanced the runners with a bunt, Luis Valbuena’s pinch-hit single scored Cozart and moved Ohtani to third. Kinsler’s flyout to center drove in Ohtani.

“I like him anywhere in the lineup,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Ohtani. “I like him in the batter’s box. Just the way our lineup falls, we want Shohei to get his feet on the ground. It’s his first go around, the first time seeing a lot of these pitchers and he’s doing very well. I think it makes our lineup fairly deep when you have him hitting down a little lower, just for the fact of the guys swinging the bats up front.”

Blake Wood (1-0) worked a spotless seventh to pick up the victory. Keynan Middleton pitched the ninth for his third save in as many opportunities.

Pujols hit a two-run homer in the third with Kinsler aboard. Pujols’ two-out single in the seventh scored Kinsler.

Paulo Orlando had two hits, scored a run and drove in a run to lead the Royals. Lucas Duda had three singles and scored a run.

Royals starter Jason Hammel held the Angels to two runs and eight hits over 5 1/3 innings.

The Royals have lost four straight and are 3-9, their worst 12-game start since 2012. They’ve been outscored 54-24 in their nine losses with the bullpen 0-4 with three blown saves.

“I’m sure there is frustration,” Hammel said of the Royals’ record. “There naturally would be frustration, not just getting it done, a step behind. But it’s a very long season. I’m not worried about it and the rest of the guys are not worried about it. We do need to find some rhythm, something to wake us up I guess. It’s still like a spring training hangover.”

The game ended with Whit Merrifield thrown out trying to steal second on the first pitch to Mike Moustakas.

Angels left-hander Andrew Heaney, who had elbow surgery last year, allowed four runs — one unearned — and seven hits over five innings in his first start. He walked one and struck out seven.

ANGELS’ PREFERRED LINEUP

For the first time this season, the Angels’ lineup included Kinsler, Cozart and Ohtani with the other six position players. Ohtani moved up to the seventh spot for the first time after batting eighth in his previous six DH starts. While Kinsler was on the disabled list, the Angels went 9-3 with Cozart leading off. Scioscia, however, opted to put Kinsler back at the top of the order, with Cozart batting sixth. “There was a lot of discussion of Coz staying there, but in the big picture of where we want to be in the long term, it has Ian leading off and Coz in a role hopefully with some guys on base,” Scioscia said.

ROSTER MOVES

Angels: RHP Felix Pena was optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake to make roster space for Heaney.

Royals: RHP Brandon Maurer was optioned to Triple-A Omaha with an 0-2 record, a 12.46 ERA and three home runs allowed in 4 1/3 innings. He allowed three inherited runners to score Thursday on a triple by Ohtani. “I think it was obvious to everybody that the time was right,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He’s a better pitcher than that. He’s a guy that should be an eighth-inning guy. He’s a guy that should be able to close out games on days your closer needs a day. He’s got that really good stuff. It’s just he’s off kilter and out of whack. He just needs to go get some confidence, have some success and come back up and take that position.” RHP Kevin McCarthy was called up from the Storm Chasers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Royals: Yost said C Salvador Perez (left knee sprain) would likely begin a minor league rehab assignment this weekend. … OF Alex Gordon hit in the cages and did some soft toss in his first activity since being diagnosed with a left hip labral tear on Monday.

UP NEXT

Angels: RHP Garrett Richards will make his first start at Kauffman Stadium since Aug. 13, 2015.

Royals: RHP Jakob Junis has not given up a run over 14 innings in his first two starts.