Santana runs into Royals roadblock

Santana runs into Royals roadblock

ANAHEIM -- As swift and elusive as they can be, the Angels apparently have identified their Achilles' heel. They can't outrun the American League Central Division.

Even Kansas City, last in the AL Central, has shown its teeth to the AL West leaders. The Royals ran their winning streak over the Angels to four games with Tuesday night's 12-4 knockout in front of a 44,002-fan Angel Stadium sellout that was uncharacteristically quiet by the late innings.

Kendry Morales' ninth-inning homer set off fireworks, but the serious noise already had been made by Kansas City in pounding out three homers and four doubles among its 13 hits.

Facing the five heartland clubs forming the AL Central, the Angels are 12-14. Against the other five divisions, they're 37-14.

The Royals have emerged as unlikely menaces. No other team in the Majors has beaten the Angels four consecutive times this season.

The Royals did it by pounding out nine hits and seven runs (five earned) against starter Ervin Santana, continuing their assault on the bullpen to equal a season-high output of runs in one game against Mike Scioscia's pitching staff.

This came one night after they'd beaten Angels ace John Lackey, 5-3.

"You never feel good about losing," Scioscia said. "The reasons are obvious. They have outplayed us two games in every aspect of baseball. We haven't played well. We've cracked the door open way too many times.

"It doesn't matter who or where you play, but how you play the game. We haven't given ourselves much of a chance the last two nights."

Gil Meche, Kansas City's ace, held the Angels to three runs across six innings to run his record to 5-6. Meche left it to his bullpen to finish the job after a five-run eighth inning -- punctuated by Alex Gordon's three-run homer against Darren Oliver -- turned it into a rout.

Taking inventory, the Angels had lost a series after taking a club record-tying nine in a row. They also dropped consecutive home games for the first time since May 5-8 when Chicago and Cleveland -- AL Central foes -- combined to take three straight in Anaheim, the first two by the White Sox.

The last time the Angels lost a series was May 22-24 in Detroit, against the Tigers.

With a 16-7 June record, the Angels were soaring when the Royals arrived.

Three throwing errors -- two by third baseman Chone Figgins and another by catcher Jose Molina -- helped the Royals bust it open against Santana, who also had trouble putting the ball where he wanted it.

Nathan Haynes, in his second Major League start, was primarily responsible for an early 1-0 lead.

Haynes nailed ultraswift Joey Gathright trying to score from second on Esteban German's single to left in the third. Haynes' throw to Molina was perfect.

Moments later, Haynes lifted a fly ball in front of the diving Gathright in left and motored to third for his first Major League extra-base hit. Reggie Willits' suicide squeeze bunt delivered Haynes, Willits reaching on Meche's error.

"Nate didn't look intimidated out on the field," Scioscia said. "He did things you need to see from a guy not playing every day -- stretching a triple, throwing a guy out at the plate. Those were big plays at the time."

Getting his second start with Gary Matthews Jr. resting a tight hamstring, Haynes showed why he's a nice fit with the Angels' run-and-stun style of attack.

"Scioscia told me in Spring Training if I wanted to make it in the big leagues, I had to use my speed," Haynes said. "Whatever it takes, I just want to help these guys win."

It didn't take the Royals long to steal Haynes' thunder. Billy Butler's first Major League homer got the Royals even in the fourth, and they manufactured four runs in the fifth.

John Buck's 14th homer of the season highlighted a two-run sixth, and German's RBI double and Gordon's blast to right were the telling blows in the eighth.

Scioscia felt Santana took a step back after five consecutive solid outings in which he'd yielded a total of 13 earned runs in 33 2/3 innings.

"I didn't see that aggressiveness that's in Ervin," Scioscia said. "I just didn't feel he was turning it loose the way he can."

His fastball was in the low 90s, but his command was off: two hit batsmen and two walks along with nine hits in his five-plus innings.

"We want to make sure nothing's bothering him," Scioscia said. "We're going to talk to him tomorrow and find out."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.