DAVE SKRETTA, AP Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Royals manager Ned Yost called a closed-door meeting prior to Friday night’s game against the Washington Nationals, trying to pull his team out of a late-season tailspin.
It seemed to help for a while. Then the tailspin turned into a nosedive.
Kansas City opened a six-run lead after two innings, and then watched as the Nationals piled up seven runs in the fourth. The high-scoring affair ended with the Royals leaving the tying run on base in the ninth inning in an 11-10 loss — their sixth straight defeat.
“We put runs on the board early and battled all the way to the last pitch,” Yost said.
Rookie reliever Tanner Roark managed to get the Nationals to the ninth with the lead, but the rest of their bullpen ran into trouble. Justin Maxwell’s two-run single off Rafael Soriano got the Royals within 11-10, but the Washington closer induced a pair of fly balls to end the game.
The first flyout came on a dramatic sliding catch by Harper in right on a blooper by Emilio Bonifacio. The second came on the first pitch to Alcides Escobar, giving Soriano is 33rd save.
“You have to catch that ball in that situation,” Harper said. “It was a huge play.”
Denard Span, Ryan Zimmerman, Tyler Moore and Anthony Rendon also had RBIs as the Nationals piled up 11 runs for the second time in three games — they beat the Cubs 11-6 on Tuesday night.
Just like in that one, Roark (4-0) earned the win with some sublime relief pitching — not to mention that big seven-run fourth inning from his offense, which included a two-run homer from Jayson Werth and a three-run double by Harper.
“Unbelievable job. He really hit his spots,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said of his rookie reliever. “He made great pitches. I can’t say enough about him.”
Bruce Chen (5-2) was tagged for the second straight time for Kansas City. He allowed seven runs and six hits with five walks in 3 2-3 innings in his shortest outing of the year.
Maxwell and Eric Hosmer each homered and drove in three runs for the Royals, who have lost six straight. Salvador Perez drove in a pair of runs, and Alex Gordon added three hits.
“It’s a game of breaks and we’re getting the bad breaks,” the Royals’ Billy Butler said. “It’s good to see the bats come out. The way things are going right now the breaks are coming and we’re falling on the wrong side. The pitchers have been great all year. This is going to happen.”
Gordon led off the game with a double and Hosmer followed with a drive to left, quickly staking Kansas City to a 2-0 lead. Maxwell added a solo shot later in the inning.
The Royals kept battering Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez in the second. Jamey Carroll got his first hit in 17 at-bats since arriving in a trade from Minnesota. Gordon hit an RBI double, Hosmer drove in a run with a single, and Butler’s run-scoring base hit made it 6-0.
Then the Nationals started their comeback.
Denard Span’s triple in the third scored their first run. In a preview of the trouble to come, Chen loaded the bases before escaping the inning on Werth’s fly ball to center.
Chen’s nightmare finally came to pass in the fourth, when the veteran left-hander served up three singles to the first four batters he faced. Rendon’s sacrifice fly scored the first of what would turn into seven runs in the inning.
Span’s two-out walk loaded the bases, and Zimmerman walked to score a run. Harper’s double off the wall in center cleared the bases and tied it at 6, forcing Yost to trundle to the mound for a pitching change. Werth greeted Louis Coleman with his two-run homer.
“We never give up. We never shut it down,” Johnson said. “We go hard.”
The Royals cut the Nationals’ lead to 8-7 in the bottom half of the fourth on Perez’s base hit, but Washington piled on three more runs in the seventh inning.
The first came on Moore’s RBI single, and the final two runs scored when second baseman Chris Getz threw the ball away trying to make a play at home.
“It was a weird game. They didn’t give up,” Getz said. “They didn’t give away any at-bats. They kept having great at-bats and fouling stuff off. We came out swinging and did the same thing and we came back. It was a chaotic game.”
NOTES: The Nationals traded C Kurt Suzuki to Oakland for RHP Dakota Bacus and OF David DeJesus to Tampa Bay for a player to be named or cash. They also recalled C Jhonatan Solano and LHP Xavier Cedeno from Triple-A Syracuse. … Royals OF Lorenzo Cain (oblique) felt good after doing a series of conditioning drills before the game. … RHP Jordan Zimmermann starts Game 2 of the series for Washington. RHP Wade Davis goes for Kansas City.
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