Payton homers helps A's snap four-game losing skid

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Several Kansas City Royals trudged quietly from the clubhouse to the weight room, heads down after yet another loss.

The Royals dropped their 19th straight game Friday night, moving within two defeats of the American League record, as Jay Payton
homered to help the Oakland Athletics snap a four-game skid with a 4-0 victory.

"It's unexplainable, really," Kansas City manager Buddy Bell said. "I don't think we're a playoff-contending team by any means, but I don't think we're this bad. ... We'll be all right."

Rich Harden (10-5) pitched 6 1/3 shutout innings to win for the first time in four outings since a four-start winning streak. He didn't allow a hit until Mike Sweeney's one-out double in the fourth.

Nick Swisher hit a pair of RBI doubles, playing in honor of his late grandmother after missing four games to attend her funeral in West Virginia. The A's welcomed back their rookie right fielder, who arrived in the Bay Area early Friday. He wore Betty Lorraine
Swisher's "BLS" initials on his armbands and pointed to the sky after his hits.

"I had so many things going through my head," said Swisher, tied for second on the team with 60 RBI. "To be able to come out on top is nice, being able to get a couple hits. Now she has a front-row seat at every game."

Kansas City (38-82), owner of the worst record in baseball, lost its 12th straight road game to tie the club's longest single-season mark, set by the 1997 squad. The Royals were swept in a three-game series in Seattle and must now face the A's other top pitcher Saturday -- 11-game winner Barry Zito. Oakland swept a three-game series from the Royals from Aug. 5-7, outscoring Kansas City 32-5.

Baltimore lost an AL-record 21 in a row at the start of the 1988 season. The major-league mark since 1900 is 23 straight losses by the Phillies in 1961.

The Royals haven't won since beating the White Sox 6-5 in 13 innings on July 27.

"It's 19 now? Wow," starting pitcher Jose Lima said. "I feel terrible, because I have pride. This is really tough. I know people are booing us, and we deserve to be booed. We've lost 19 in a row. ... I don't want to come here every day and think we're going to get a whipping. You want to feel sorry for yourself. This is the toughest thing I've been through in my life."

As if the Royals don't have enough problems, they got a scare when Sweeney and Lima collided at first base on Mark Kotsay's hard grounder in the fourth. Both were slow getting up and visited by the training staff but stayed in the game. Lima bruised his left knee on the play.

Payton connected for a solo homer in the second. He homered for the fifth time in 11 games and has 10 homers and 26 RBI in 29 games since joining the A's in a July 13 trade with Boston. He also added a double in the third and scored twice.

After allowing a leadoff walk to David DeJesus in his 27-pitch first inning, Harden retired his next 10 batters and 14 of 15. He made a sliding catch in front of the mound on a bunt by Joe McEwing
in the third. Harden allowed four hits, struck out six and walked two.

"We've lost a few in a row and we needed to turn things around," Harden said. "I'd rather face a team that's winning a lot. They're bound to turn it around at any time."

The Royals loaded the bases with one out in the eighth before closer Huston Street got five outs for his 16th save in 20 chances to complete the five-hitter. It was the eighth time Kansas City has been shut out this year.

"It seems like every game we play we get behind early and we just can't -- we don't have any kind of consistent offensive attack," Bell said.

Oakland tagged Lima (4-12) for three runs in the second, batting around and forcing the right-hander to throw 38 pitches. Lima lost his fourth straight outing and has never beaten Oakland in five starts.

Lima, coming off his first complete game since 2001, gave up four runs, seven hits and four walks in five innings after not walking a batter in his previous start.

Game notes
DeJesus left in the fourth with a sore left ribcage and was replaced by Chip Ambres. He will undergo more treatment Saturday and try to play in the night game. ... Kansas City got its first baserunner to third in the eighth. ... The A's optioned outfielder Matt Watson back to Triple-A Sacramento to free up a roster spot for Swisher. ... Royals infielder Mark Teahen left the team to attend his grandfather's funeral. ... Payton came in batting .400 lifetime
against Lima, and this was his fourth homer. "The way things are going now, everybody kills me," Lima said. ... The A's earned their 10th shutout, their first since blanking the Royals 11-0 on Aug. 7.