- The Washington Times - Friday, August 19, 2005

SEATTLE — A psychologist might call it a simple case of denial. The Kansas City Royals, however, cannot escape the harsh, unmistakable facts: They are on a losing streak with seemingly no end.

“We don’t want to think about the record,” center fielder David DeJesus said after the Royals were swept by the Seattle Mariners to run their losing string to 18 games, three shy of the American League mark.

Now, staring the Royals in the face is the record of 21 losses in a row set by Baltimore at the start of the 1988 season. They also are closing in on the modern major league milestone of 23 straight by Philadelphia in 1961.

The Royals open a three-game series at Oakland tonight. If they are swept in their seventh straight series, they would claim a share of the AL record. They could break the mark Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium against the Boston Red Sox.

“It’s not like we’re incapable of winning,” slugger Mike Sweeney said. “We’re just in a rut right now. It’s a big rut, though.”

The Royals are at or near the bottom of the league in batting and fielding. But it’s their pitching that really has deserted them in their plunge, which began after a 6-5, 13-inning win over the Chicago White Sox at Kansas City on July 27, their second straight win over the AL Central leaders.

Since then, their pitchers have an ERA of 7.46, leaving the team with a 38-81 record and headed for its second consecutive 100-plus loss season and its third season of 100 losses or more in four years. The Royals’ overall ERA has risen to 5.62, the worst in baseball.

Kansas City lost 104 games last season. After Wednesday’s 11-5 loss in Seattle in a game in which they fell behind 8-0 after five innings, the Royals are on pace to lose 109 games this season.

They have the worst record in the majors. Their record was 38-63 when the losing streak began with a 10-5 loss in Tampa Bay on July 28. In order, they have been swept by the Devil Rays, Boston, Oakland, Cleveland, Detroit and now the Mariners.

“Everybody wants it to end,” said rookie catcher Paul Phillips, whose first career homer — a grand slam with two out in the ninth — was the highlight of the Royals’ lackluster Wednesday in Seattle.

Against Oakland, the Royals will start Jose Lima (4-11) tonight, Mike Wood (3-4) tomorrow night and Runelvys Hernandez (8-11) on Sunday. Manager Buddy Bell hasn’t announced his starter for the opener of the Boston series.

Lima, an All-Star for the Houston Astros in 1999 when he won 21 games, still would appear to have the talent to end the streak. He was 13-5 for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season and lost a 1-0 decision in the second game of a doubleheader in Detroit on Sunday.

“I’ve just got to do my job and stay focused like the last game,” Lima said.

Sweeney is the team’s highest-paid player at $11 million for the small-market Royals, but the 32-year-old designated hitter-first baseman is suffering as much as his younger teammates.

“It’s not fun,” he said. “Try going out there every day and losing. We have to turn things around. We need to win, baby, win.”

Bell returned to his team from Arlington National Cemetery, where he attended burial services of his Marine nephew killed in Iraq this month by a roadside bomb.

On Wednesday, Seattle’s Adrian Beltre hit a grand slam off D.J. Carrasco in the first inning. Seventeen pitches and 15 minutes into the game, the Royals were down 4-0.

“We’ve got to give ourselves a chance,” Bell said.

The losing streak by the 1961 Phillies is the longest in the majors since 1900. Bell, like DeJesus, doesn’t want to talk about records.

“There’s a lot of history I care about,” he said. “But right now I just want to move forward.”

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