KANSAS CITY — The Royals insist that they're not panicking, not 11 games into a 162-game season.
Problem is that most of those 11 games have been miserable.
There was the time Jonathan Broxton hit back-to-back batters to force in the deciding run in extra innings, and the time Kansas City allowed a seven-run first inning against Cleveland. And on Tuesday night, it was squandering a strong start by Bruce Chen in a 3-1 loss to Detroit.
"You can't panic, especially with young kids," manager Ned Yost said. "I've told these kids, 'You're going to go through periods like this.' Every club does. I don't want to make too big of a deal about it, but this is kind of a character building time, too, to learn how to deal with this, how to punch your way out of it, how to almost relax your way out of it."
Kansas City (3-8) has lost six straight games, including a sweep at the hands of the Indians, and has not won a home game during a 10-game stand at Kauffman Stadium.
"We expect to win. We know we have the lineup and pitching to win," said reliever Greg Holland, who gave up the go-ahead single to Miguel Cabrera in the eighth inning Tuesday night.
"When you're not winning, it kind of builds up and you get frustrated," Holland said. "I feel like I'm pretty calm and collected on the mound, but after the game you're kind of beating your head against the wall. We just need to take a step back and relax."
Cabrera was 0 for 22 before his single in the third inning, but it was his RBI single off Holland that proved most important. It came on the heels of singles by Andy Dirks and Brennan Boesch and snapped a 1-all tie. Prince Fielder added another RBI single.
Octavio Dotel (1-0) pitched the seventh, Joaquin Benoit pitched around a two-out triple by Jeff Francoeur in the eighth, and Jose Valverde took care of the ninth for his second save.
"You've got to take with a grain of salt," Holland said. "This is not the way we drew it up, but this can be another learning experience."
Billy Butler had three hits and Alex Gordon drove in the Royals' only run, while Bruce Chen (0-1) took the tough-luck loss despite pitching into the eighth for Kansas City.
Chen had retired 13 straight before giving up a single to Dirks, just the sixth hit he'd allowed all night. But he was responsible for the go-ahead run when Holland allowed three straight base hits, and was tagged with the loss despite recording seven strikeouts without a walk.
"We're going to hit. The starting rotation is turning around. We haven't won as many games as we wanted, but the last couple of games we've played well," Chen said.
Drew Smyly made another impressive start for the Tigers, allowing only an unearned run and seven hits over six innings. He struck out four and his lone walk was intentional.
The 22-year-old left-hander, who made a solid big league debut against Tampa Bay last week, even had his personal cheering section in Kansas City. Several family members and friends made a seven-hour drive from his hometown of Little Rock, Ark., while others made a four-hour trek from Fayetteville, where he pitched three years for the University of Arkansas.
With an announced crowd of 13,851, the Smyly supporters sounded as if they owned the park.
Detroit gave them reason to cheer in the second inning, when Delmon Young singled leading off and Ryan Raburn snapped a 0-for-22 skid with a double. Ramon Santiago followed with a sacrifice fly to right field to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
It wasn't always easy for Smyly, who put at least one runner aboard every inning. But the only time Kansas City managed to get someone home was in the third, when Alcides Escobar lined a hard shot that hit Smyly right between the shoulder blades and bounced toward first base.
Smyly tracked the ball down but threw it away, the error sending Escobar to second. Detroit trainers and manager Jim Leyland came out to check on Smyly, who shrugged his shoulders and tried to stretch out. He threw a half dozen warm-up pitches and remained in the game.
Gordon followed with a single up the middle that tied the score.
The Royals have not won since taking the middle game of a three-game set at Oakland exactly a week ago, a miserable stretch in which they lost one game on back-to-back hit batters and another after they rallied from seven runs down to force extra innings.
"They're a good ball club over there," Leyland said. "They're going to come around."