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OAK@KC: Colon makes heads-up throw to save a run

KANSAS CITY -- "It's getting embarrassing."

That was Josh Reddick's response following the A's ninth straight loss, a 2-0 defeat against the Royals on Friday night in the series opener at Kauffman Stadium.

Oakland's bats were again silenced, as the team was shut out for the sixth time in its last 16 games. Royals starter Felipe Paulino pitched six scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and three walks.

"You won't see it happen a whole lot from the one-through-nine slot, where everybody's just not getting anything done," Reddick said. "We don't have one person who can pick up this team and put them on their back right now. It's frustrating that you come out here and you try to work your butt off before the game, and then you hit between the lines and it just feels lost out there."

The A's are searching for that "one person," and, before the game, they thought he might have arrived, as outfielder Yoenis Cespedes returned from a stay on the disabled list. But Cespedes, who started in left field for the first time this season, went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts.

A's starter Bartolo Colon was solid, allowing two runs over seven innings, with both runs coming in the game's opening frame. After escaping a bases-loaded, none-out jam to end the third inning, Colon allowed just two more baserunners.

"It was terrific to do what he did after two runs and looking like he really didn't have his best stuff," manager Bob Melvin said. "He got behind some guys and doesn't do that pretty much ever. And then to be able to do what he did for as long as he did, a veteran like him doesn't let a couple runs early on fluster him. He just goes out there and pitches his game."

The A's didn't have many scoring chances, but when runners did get on base, they quickly exited. Jemile Weeks was caught trying to steal third in the third inning, and Cespedes was picked off first base in the fourth.

"We're just trying to do a little too much, obviously, with the baserunning mistakes we made in situations where we're not running," Melvin said. "In Weeks' case, he's just trying to do a little too much. He sees the third baseman [Mike Moustakas] back a little bit with Reddick up, and thought he could get runners in scoring position. And Yoenis, I think just looked down at the wrong time.

"Pretty much the same story offensively. We're having some struggles."

The Royals scored both of their runs in the bottom of the first. Alex Gordon led off with a walk, and Yuniesky Betancourt -- fresh off the disabled list -- lined a pitch into the gap in right-center field. Right fielder Reddick did not play the ball cleanly, and Gordon scored from first. Betancourt was credited with an RBI double.

Two batters later, Moustakas flared a single that dropped in front of Cespedes to plate Betancourt, increasing the lead to 2-0.

It was the only damage Colon surrendered all night, but it was enough to get him his sixth loss of the season. Colon's record now sits at 4-6, with a 4.34 ERA.

Colon's effort was reminiscent of his strong first month to open the season. With the exception of one start, Colon didn't allow more than two earned runs in five April outings. The right-hander fared much worse in May, seeing his ERA balloon from 2.53 to 4.52.

However, Colon's first June start was encouraging.

In the third, Colon induced a swinging bunt off the bat of Eric Hosmer, which the pitcher fielded and tossed home for an out before getting Alcides Escobar to ground into an inning-ending double play to escape a bases-loaded jam.

"We've been playing some good defense at times, certainly to get us out of a jam right there with nobody out was big," Melvin said. "A lot of times that transfers the momentum over to you. We didn't get anything going offensively, but they're still focused and trying to do the best they can."

Encouraging as Colon's effort might have been, though, the A's still couldn't snap their streak. Reddick said nine straight losses, while frustrating, isn't going to force anyone to change his daily routine.

"We come in here the same every day, putting these games behind us and we're not reading into it too much," Reddick said. "We're doing the same thing during batting practice, same clubhouse atmosphere before the game and everything. It's just one of those stretches where the baseball gods don't seem to be in your favor."

The A's hope to get help on the mound, when Brandon McCarthy comes off the disabled list to start against the Royals on Saturday. But, if Friday was any indication, no matter how good the pitching is, the pressure to perform still falls on the offense.

"I'd like to be an opposing pitcher right now facing a struggling team like us, a lineup like us, that's for sure," Reddick said.

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