KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Perhaps Ned Yost is running out of ideas for pulling his Royals out of a tailspin.
After scuffling to a 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night that gave Kansas City a franchise record-tying 10 straight defeats at home, the sometimes surly manager was asked what else he could possibly do to hold his downward-diving team accountable.
"What are you asking me to do? Take my belt off and spank them? Yell at them, scream at them? What do you want?" Yost asked. "I understand your question. Do we need to make changes? This can't continue.
"Somewhere down the road," he said, "we're going to have to make some changes."
Kansas City has lost seven straight and 18 of its past 22, erasing a 17-10 start that had a beleaguered fan base finally starting to believe in something. The Royals' 10 consecutive losses at Kauffman Stadium matches the franchise record set just last season.
"Once this team comes together, if it ever does — which I do believe it will — and gels as a team, we are going to be in pretty good shape," Yost said. "Right now, we're struggling through it. You've got to continue to allow them to grow."
The Royals' offense has been the biggest culprit: It's produced eight runs total in the Royals' past five games, and hasn't scored more than four in a game since May 21 at Houston.
While the Cardinals had three homers Tuesday night, the Royals have that many in 14 games.
"There's no room for error right now," general manager Dayton Moore said before the game. "If pressure turns into panic you have a problem. Right now we've just got to deal with the pressure in a way that is professional and with the right mindset and just get through it."
The Royals were hamstrung Tuesday night by Cardinals rookie Tyler Lyons (2-0), who only allowed two hits over seven innings — an RBI double in the first by Billy Butler and a bloop single by the DH in the seventh, which ended a string of 17 straight batters retired.
The double was Butler's 1,000th hit, and the only bright spot on the night for KC.
"I'm appreciative of the fans. It made me very happy," said Butler, the ninth player in franchise history to have 1,000 hits. "It's unfortunate it came in a game like this."
Carlos Beltran hit a two-run homer, and Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday also went deep off Royals starter Ervin Santana (3-5). Trevor Rosenthal pitched the eighth inning in a driving rain for St. Louis, and Edward Mujica handled the ninth for his 16th save of the year.
"Just the life, the energy — they're enjoying showing up every day to pay the game," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said, "and you can tell they're really lifting each other up."
St. Louis got off to a carbon-copy start of the previous night, when Yadier Molina hit a two-run homer in the first inning from the No. 2 spot in the lineup. This time, it was Beltran who went deep to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead after just seven pitches.
It was the first time the Cardinals got two-run shots from the No. 2 spot in the first inning in back-to-back games since 1998, when Ray Lankford hit both of them, according to STATS LLC. The Royals haven't accomplished the same feat since Amos Otis went deep in consecutive games in 1976.
The Royals got one run back right away when Alex Gordon drew a leadoff walk — the Royals began the night with the third-fewest walks in the majors — and Butler drove him in with his double.
But that was the hardest-hit ball of the night by Kansas City, which set a season low for hits in a game. Lyons retired 17 in a row before Butler blooped his single down the right-field line with one out in the seventh inning, and then he left the Royals' DH stranded on first base.
Other than the home runs, Santana was nearly as effectively on the mound.
The Royals' right-hander went 14 consecutive batters without allowing anybody on base at one point, and he was aided by double plays in the first and seventh innings to limit the damage.
Not even the best defense could keep the ball in the park, though. Santana allowed four homers to the Angels his last time out, and has allowed seven in his past two starts.
"That happens. I'm not trying to be perfect, just trying to make my pitch. If I miss, that's how it is," Santana said. "I have to change the page and get them next time."
Notes: Molina got a rare night off. He'd played in 58 of the Cardinals' first 60 games. ... Gordon was back in the leadoff spot for Kansas City. CF Lorenzo Cain batted third in the order for the first time. ... RHP Jeremy Guthrie will be on the mound for Kansas City on Wednesday. RHP Lance Lynn will pitch for the Cardinals. ... The game took 2 hours, 7 minutes to complete.