PITTSBURGH – With so many of their players out of position, the Kansas City Royals looked out of place playing in a National League ballpark.
Kansas City managed just five hits and had a couple of fielding miscues during a 4-2 loss to the surging Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night.
Playing without the designated hitter for the first time this season, the Royals had three players out of position and all that shuffling played a role in their 13th loss in their past 16 interleague road games.
Regular designated hitter Billy Butler, who leads the team with 11 homers, made his third start at first base. First baseman Eric Hosmer was in right field and Jeff Francoeur moved from right to center. Francoeur had three prior innings of experience in center, and Hosmer had never played right in the majors.
Hosmer misplayed Rod Barajas' leadoff single in the second, allowing him to move up a base. Butler was prominent in a botched rundown that led to another Pittsburgh run in the third.
"It's going to take them a game or two to get acclimated because they're playing out of position," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Those plays hurt us early and we couldn't get much offense going after that."
Yost said the Royals have to stick with the alignment over much of the next two weeks. Kansas City began a stretch of nine interleague road games in 13 days on Friday.
Yuniesky Betancourt drove in a run and scored for the Royals, who have lost four of six.
"We've got to find a way to get Billy's bat in the lineup because that's the best possible situation for us," Hosmer said. "I've just got to try to get more live reps out there in game situations and try to get better."
Pittsburgh (30-27) has won 10 of 13 to move three games over .500 for the first time this season.
Lumbering catcher Rod Barajas scored the Pirates' second run when he used a nifty slide to avoid the tag from Humberto Quintero following Clint Barmes' single in the second. Alvarez made it 4-2 an inning later when he took off from third after Jose Tabata was picked off first but got into a rundown.
"Dance moves, I think," is how the 36-year-old Barajas described his dive to the inside of home, roll over and lunge to extend his finger tips to the plate.
Erik Bedard (4-6) allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings as Pittsburgh captured the opening game of a series for the sixth consecutive time. Jason Grilli worked a perfect eighth and Joel Hanrahan retired the side in order in the ninth for his 16th save in 18 opportunities.
Garrett Jones doubled in Neil Walker in the first, and Walker's infield hit drove in Barmes to make it 3-0 in the second.
Betancourt hit an RBI double in the third and scored on Mike Moustakas' base hit to get the Royals within one.
Luke Hochevar (3-7) remained winless in his past six outings, allowing four runs and nine hits in six innings.
"Even though I gave up some runs early, I was able to keep my pitch count down and keep us in the game," Hochevar said.
NOTES: The Royals recalled 1B Clint Robinson to add an extra bench bat for the nine games in NL parks they have over the next 13 days. Robinson made his major league debut, striking out as a pinch hitter to end the game. LHP Ryan Verdugo was optioned to Triple-A Omaha. ... Pirates RHP Jeff Karstens underwent an MRI a day after leaving a rehabilitation start for Triple-A Indianapolis. Karstens, who is on the disabled list because of inflammation in his right shoulder, injured his hip and is day to day. ... Pirates RHP James McDonald (5-2, 2.14) has won five of his past six decisions and ranks second in the NL in ERA heading into Saturday's start. RHP Vin Mazzaro (2-0, 2.25) will start for Kansas City five days after pitching six shutout innings in his most recent outing.