OAKLAND — Bob Melvin knew Oakland’s offense might struggle after trading away cleanup hitter Yoenis Cespedes. The manager just didn’t think it would be this bad.
Two days after being shut out in the series opener against Kansas City, the Athletics managed just four hits in a 4-2 loss to James Shields and the Royals on Sunday.
Josh Reddick hit a leadoff drive in the sixth for Oakland’s first baserunner. He also homered in the eighth against Shields, but that was it for the A’s offense.
“We just haven’t been our best offensively here and now we come up against some good starting pitching,” Melvin said. “Shields was certainly on his game early today. He threw really well today.”
Oakland was held to five hits in Friday’s 1-0 loss. On Saturday, Jason Vargas retired the first 12 batters before the A’s put together an eight-run fifth.
The A’s have the best record in baseball at 67-43, but have sputtered offensively since shipping Cespedes to Boston on Thursday in a deal for ace Jon Lester. They lead the stacked AL West by one game over the Los Angeles Angels, who beat Tampa Bay 7-5 on Sunday.
“Our bats aren’t really where we want them right now,” Reddick said. “The last week or so even coming back from Texas and Houston, we aren’t swing the bats as well as we can.”
The 32-year-old Shields (10-6) allowed four hits. He walked none for the fifth time this season.
“I was really aggressive today,” Shields said. “When I get aggressive, I get those guys in swing mode. When I’m wild it’s not going to be as effective.”
Oakland was without injured leadoff hitter Coco Crisp, though it hardly mattered the way Shields was pitching.
Shields allowed only three balls out of the infield through the first five innings. One of them was a deep fly to center by Josh Donaldson in the first, the closest Oakland came to getting a man on base before Reddick’s home run.
“We know we’re going to come out of it,” Reddick said. “We’re just tired of waiting. We’re a better lot than we’ve shown in the last week.”
The Royals won despite hitting into four double plays.
Nori Aoki’s RBI single in the fifth gave Kansas City a 1-0 lead. Omar Infante followed with a two-run double and later scored on a single by Salvador Perez.
All the runs came against Scott Kazmir (12-4).
KAZMIR’S STREAK AT HOME ENDS
Kazmir lost at the Oakland Coliseum for just the second time this season. It’s also the first time since June 24 that the left-hander allowed more than two earned runs.
CLOSING IN ON 800
It was the 798th win for Kansas City manager Ned Yost, moving him one ahead of Melvin for 76th on the career list.
Athletics: Infielder Nick Punto was placed on the 15-day disabled list after he strained a hamstring rounding third base on Saturday. … Crisp (neck) took swings in the batting cage but there is still no timetable for his return. Crisp has not played since July 26.
Royals: Left-hander Danny Duffy (5-10) pitches the series opener in Arizona on Tuesday. Duffy’s 2.42 ERA is the fourth-lowest in the AL among pitchers with at least 100 innings.
Athletics: Right-hander Jeff Samardzija (2-1), who has allowed at least one home run in each of his previous four outings, starts against Tampa Bay on Monday.