KANSAS CITY -- Alex Gordon returned to the top of the Royals' lineup in the latest effort to awaken the Royals' snoozing bats.
It didn't work, as the Royals managed just two hits in a 4-1 loss to their Show-Me State rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, in front of a divided house of 27,833 on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals lost their seventh straight game, including an 0-6 homestand.
What could anyone say about this dreary dilemma? Gordon tried.
"I can just tell you we played terrible tonight and had a terrible homestand," Gordon said. "I mean, I can't sit here and give you excuses. We just didn't hit, we just didn't compete the way we needed to this homestand."
Gordon was adjusting his tie as the Royals packed for their trip to St. Louis for the final two games of this I-70 Series.
"We've got to figure out a way to forget about it and move on to tomorrow and not let it drag on. So hopefully, getting out of here will be a good thing, I guess," Gordon continued. "No excuses, we just played terrible. That's all I can say."
The Royals managed just two hits -- both by Billy Butler -- in seven innings off Cardinals left-hander Tyler Lyons, just up from Triple-A Memphis and making his second big league start. Counting a leadoff walk by Gordon in the first inning, they had a grand total of three baserunners.
Against relievers Trevor Rosenthal and Edward Mujica in the last two innings, they got absolutely nothing ,and the bitter end came in a sudden 2 hours, seven minutes.
So the countdown -- with the emphasis on down -- continued for the Royals: just one win in their past 12 games, and 18 losses in their past 22. They've gone from a 17-10 club on May 5 to 21-28, seven games under .500.
Naturally, manager Ned Yost keeps getting peppered with questions about a lifeless offense that has scored three or fewer runs in 15 of the past 18 losses. Example: What's being done for players that are struggling, to hold them accountable?
"What are you asking me to do? Take my belt off and spank 'em, yell at 'em, scream at 'em? I mean, whaddaya want?" Yost said. "These kids, every day we go through the process. We're talking constantly about approach."
Calming a bit, Yost acknowledged he understood the purpose behind the question.
"Do we need to make changes? This can't continue. Somewhere down the road, yeah, we're going to have to make some changes," Yost said. "But it's a 162-game season. You look at where the Oakland A's were last year, and at the All-Star break, they were totally written off, totally counted out, and look where they finished.
"Once this team comes together, if it ever does, which I do believe it will, and jells as a team, we are going to be in pretty good shape. Right now, we're struggling through it. You've got to continue to allow them to grow."
This is Yost preaching patience again, but he's a realist, too.
"Are changes coming if this continues? I'd imagine, yeah, we can't continue this," he said. "But to yell at 'em, scream at 'em, threaten 'em to go down [to the Minors] right now, it doesn't do the trick. You've got to work hard, continue to stay focused on your approach, and hopefully, sooner or later, they're going to get it and they're going catch fire, and we're gonna go."
All the going on Tuesday night, though, was done by the Cardinals, who crashed three homers for all four runs off Royals right-hander Ervin Santana.
After Matt Carpenter opened the game with a single, Carlos Beltran belted a two-run shot down the right-field line, his 11th homer. It was a reprise of Monday's game, when Carpenter singled to start the game, and Yadier Molina followed with a two-run homer in the Cardinals' 6-3 win.
"It's a common theme in baseball that the team that scores first usually wins the game," Carpenter said. "Jumping out with two quick ones in both games really helped us in this series."
The next two batters reached base, but then Santana got in a groove, retiring 14 batters in succession.
"I missed a couple pitches, and that's it," Santana said. "After that, I just refocused and kept throwing strikes."
Maybe too many strikes. In the sixth inning, Carpenter interrupted the string of outs with a long home run to right field. One out later, Matt Holliday homered to left, and it was 4-1.
"He throws a bunch of strikes, a ton of strikes, and the majority of home runs come off of mistake sliders," Yost said.
Meantime, the Royals were having real problems against Lyons, out of Oklahoma State by way of Lubbock, Texas.
Gordon, restored to the No. 1 spot, opened the first inning with a walk, moved up on a groundout and scored on Butler's double, the 1,000th hit of his career.
But for the next five innings, that was it. Starting with the third out of the first inning, Lyons retired the next 17 batters in succession. The streak ended when Butler got his second hit, dumping a single down the right-field line with one out in the seventh.
Butler got a standing ovation after his 1,000th hit, but there was only applause from Cardinals fans celebrating a victory in the rainy finish.
"We're coming here prepared to win, and it's just not happening," Butler said. "We know we need to get better, and I see everyone trying to."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.