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Herrera has rare hiccup in loss to the Rays

MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- Royals closer Kelvin Herrera has been virtually perfect this season, allowing one run in 16 appearances and sporting an 0.61 ERA entering Tuesday's ninth inning.

But Herrera was nicked for three singles, the last an RBI hit by the Rays' Joey Wendle that was the deciding run in the Royals' 6-5 loss at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals have lost four straight and six of seven.

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KANSAS CITY -- Royals closer Kelvin Herrera has been virtually perfect this season, allowing one run in 16 appearances and sporting an 0.61 ERA entering Tuesday's ninth inning.

But Herrera was nicked for three singles, the last an RBI hit by the Rays' Joey Wendle that was the deciding run in the Royals' 6-5 loss at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals have lost four straight and six of seven.

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With runners on first and second and two out, Herrera threw a changeup down and away to Wendle, who lined it to the left of left fielder Alex Gordon, who had no realistic chance at throwing out Johnny Field at the plate.

"[The changeup] was down," Herrera said. "I tried to get a weak ground ball or weak popup, but he got the head of the bat on it. This is the type of game that will happen sooner or later."

Video: TB@KC: Wendle lines a go-ahead RBI single in the 9th

Royals manager Ned Yost agreed, saying: "The ball that Wendle hit I thought was a pretty good pitch right there. Kel's really been throwing the ball well for us."

The bigger issue has been too many erratic starts from the rotation -- three starters got tagged for nine runs each in the last six days -- and on Tuesday, right-hander Ian Kennedy gave up three quick runs in the first.

"He didn't look very good to me [in the first]," Yost said. "It's one of those situations where you're hoping that he can make an adjustment and settle in. That's exactly what he did. He did a great job of grinding through six innings, keeping the score within check so that we could at least stay in the game and have a chance to win it."

Video: TB@KC: Cron crushes a 2-run homer to open scoring

Added Kennedy: "I was just grinding. I didn't feel right from the get-go. Tried to keep the team in it."

After throwing 34 pitches in the first inning, Kennedy did give Yost some length. Kennedy wound up going six frames, permitting seven hits and five earned runs. He walked three and struck out six, throwing 101 pitches.

Whit Merrifield collected two hits and three RBIs for the Royals.

Video: TB@KC: Merrifield singles in Dozier, out at second

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Merrifield came through with a clutch two-out, two-run single in the seventh that tied the score at 5. The inning started with Alex Gordon drawing a walk and Hunter Dozier, just called up from Triple-A Omaha on Monday, belting a double to deep left-center. But Jose Alvarado then got Abraham Almonte to hit a first-pitch slow roller to first as the runners held. Ryan Goins, who struck out in the ninth on Monday night with the tying run on third and one out, struck out again. But Merrifield stroked a two-strike single off Sergio Romo into center field.

Video: TB@KC: Merrifield plates 2 to tie the game in the 7th

SOUND SMART
When Kennedy fanned Denard Span to end the sixth inning, it marked Kennedy's 1,500th strikeout of his career.

Video: TB@KC: Kennedy freezes Span for his 1,500th strikeout

HE SAID IT
"Losing sucks. Nobody likes to lose. We're tired of losing. Guys are showing up, playing hard. Guys are putting in the work. Guys want to win." -- Merrifield, on the state of the Royals

UP NEXT
Right-hander Jason Hammel (0-4, 6.13 ERA) takes the mound for the Royals in a 1:15 p.m. CT game against the Rays on Wednesday to conclude the series. Right-hander Jake Faria (3-2, 5.09 ERA) will pitch for the Rays. Hammel gave up a season-high nine runs over 3 2/3 innings on Friday in a game the Royals rallied to win, 10-9.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Kansas City Royals, Kelvin Herrera, Ian Kennedy