HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Astros know they need to get it together - and quickly - for a chance to defend their crown this postseason after being swept at home by one of baseball's worst teams and falling farther behind Texas in the AL West.
“It sucks not being able to win right now and getting swept, but we've just got to forget and go to Seattle and play," outfielder Mauricio Dubón said. “Everybody knows what's going on. So we've just go to go there and be focused and try to win baseball games.”
Nelson Velázquez hit two home runs and Salvador Perez and Matt Duffy also homered as the Kansas City Royals built a big lead early Sunday and held on for a 6-5 win over the Astros.
Houston dropped 2 1/2 games behind the Rangers in the division and is a half-game ahead of Seattle for the third and final wild card spot.
Houston finished 39-42 at Minute Maid Park, its first losing record at home since 2014.
“It's tough to take,” manager Dusty Baker said. “What can I say?”
Kansas City (54-102) has won six straight games and 10 of 11.
“The sweep is just kind of a benefit to the fact that these guys have been playing really well (and) pitching in really tough situations against a really good lineup,” manager Matt Quatraro said.
The Royals raced to a 6-2 lead after tagging rookie Hunter Brown (11-13) for all four homers in just three innings.
Yordan Alvarez hit a solo homer to cut the lead to one run in the fifth. But the defending World Series champions couldn’t do anything after that on a day they went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position and lost for the fifth time in six games.
Veteran first baseman Jose Abreu is confident the Astros can get back on track.
“The champions always have pressure and I think the guys know what they need to do to be able to get out of this,” he said in Spanish through a translator. “We haven’t got the results (we wanted) but we know what we need to do and it starts tomorrow.”
Chas McCormick doubled with one out in the eighth inning, but Carlos Hernandez retired the next two batters to leave him stranded.
James McArthur gave up a single to Jose Altuve with one out in the ninth, but he retired Alex Bregman and Alvarez to end it and get his third save.
Steven Cruz opened the game for the Royals and allowed three hits and run in an inning before Alec Marsh (3-8) took over. He allowed three hits and four runs - three earned - with six strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings for the win.
The 102-loss Royals took five of six from the Astros this season.
Altuve hit a leadoff single and moved to third on a one-out single by Alvarez. The Astros took a 1-0 lead when Altuve scored on a single by Abreu with two outs.
The Royals tied it on a homer to right field by Velazquez to start the second. Nick Loftin singled before Duffy put Kansas City up 3-1 with his shot to the seats in left field with one out in the inning.
Yainer Diaz and Dubón hit back-to-back singles with no outs in the second. Jeremy Peña moved them both over one with a sacrifice bunt. Houston cut the lead to 3-2 when Diaz scored on a groundout by Altuve.
Bobby Witt Jr. walked to open the third inning before Perez homered on a soaring shot that bounced off the wall in left field to make it 5-2. Five pitches later, Velazquez connected on his second home run of the game to push the lead to 6-2.
Marsh plunked Alvarez with not outs in the third before Kyle Tucker reached on catcher’s interference. Abreu walked to load the bases before Alvarez scored when McCormick grounded into a force out that left Abreu out at second.
The Astros cut the lead to two runs when Tucker scored on a groundout by Diaz before Dubón grounded out to end the inning.
Royals: Perez was activated from the injured list after sitting out since sustaining a mild concussion Sept. 16. … C Tyler Cropley was optioned to Triple-A Omaha to make room for him on the roster.
Astros: OF Michael Brantley missed a sixth straight game Sunday with right shoulder soreness. But he took batting practice on the field before the game and could return as soon as Monday.
BIG HOME CROWDS
The Astros welcomed 3,052,347 fans to Minute Maid Park this season, their most since a record 3,087,872 in 2004. It's the fifth time the team has had a home attendance of more than 3 million and the first since 2007.
Royals: Kansas City is off Monday before opening a three-game series at Detroit Tuesday night when RHP Zack Greinke (1-15, 5.37 ERA) opposes RHP Reese Olson (5-7, 4.13).
Astros: RHP Justin Verlander (11-8, 3.44) opposes Seattle RHP Luis Castillo (14-7, 3.06) in the opener of a three-game series against the Mariners Monday night.
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