OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – Some members of the Royals speak optimistically about following their club-record 19-game skid with a long winning streak.

But the fact is that every other team in the major leagues is better than Kansas City, and the final month and a half of the season could be just as frustrating as the previous three weeks for this inexperienced club.

After rallying to win Sunday’s series finale in Oakland 5-4 in 12 innings, the Royals headed home for three games against the Boston Red Sox before a trip to New York for three games at Yankee Stadium.

“Now we’ve got to wait another year to go on that losing streak,” pitcher Jose Lima joked after Kansas City defeated the Athletics 2-1 Saturday night to end the majors’ longest slide in 17 years.

The Royals stopped their streak two shy of the American League record, also snapping a 12-game road losing streak that tied the franchise single-season mark.

Everyone involved hopes they can now relax ever so slightly, even though the team’s next nine games are against playoff contenders.

“A lot of guys just smile now,” said first baseman Matt Stairs, who contributed an RBI groundout Saturday against his former team. “Guys are not going to be sitting around moping and pressing anymore. It’s just nice. It’s not the turning point of the season, but it’s nice to get the media off our back and not be the highlights on SportsCenter whenever anybody falls down.”

The Royals’ skid was the longest since 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 Philadelphia Phillies in 1961.

Kansas City was forced to keep things in perspective as manager Buddy Bell dealt with the death of his nephew, Lance Cpl. Tim Bell Jr., a Marine killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq earlier this month.

First baseman Mike Sweeney visited a close friend and cancer patient, 15-year-old Morgan Cain, last week in Seattle and surprised the teen’s family with tickets to a game at Safeco Field.

Denny Hocking played in Game 5 of the American League division series in Oakland while with Minnesota in October 2002. When Kansas City finally ended its streak, he insisted the atmosphere around the Royals topped the day the Twins beat the Athletics to advance to the ALCS.

“There was more intensity in the dugout for this game,” said Hocking, a veteran utilityman called up from Triple-A Omaha on Aug. 6. “It shows how bad these guys wanted it.”

Kansas City made two silly errors – mistakes became the norm during this gloomy stretch – but also got some breaks for once, such as the A’s going 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

“We still only have 39 wins, but every person on the roster was into the game from the first pitch on,” Sweeney said. “We were coming off the bench giving high-fives. We had a good shot in the arm of life. The win was a big part of that.”

Three years ago, the Royals were on the other end when Oakland won its AL-record 20th straight game in dramatic fashion. The A’s blew an 11-run lead before pinch-hitter Scott Hatteberg hit a walkoff homer in the bottom of the ninth for a 12-11 win over Kansas City in front of 55,528 fans at the Coliseum.

To celebrate Saturday, Lima popped open several bottles of Dom Perignon champagne, then promised $1,000 to the teammate who could do the most to bring the Royals a win Sunday.

Kansas City used five pitchers Saturday to beat the A’s and their ace, Barry Zito – with former Oakland farmhand Mike Wood pitching five innings for the win.

Ambiorix Burgos escaped a bases-loaded jam in the sixth, Jeremy Affeldt followed and got two huge outs, and Mike MacDougal set down the final four batters of the game for his 15th straight save.

“They were going to win a game sooner or later,” A’s manager Ken Macha said. “They’ve got some equipment out there in the bullpen, guys throwing in the high 90s.”

Stairs figures the Royals will appreciate a fresh start, whatever happens over the final six weeks of the season. He’s going to put this depressing run behind him, that’s for sure.

“I lost count after 15,” he said. “It was tough. Hopefully it’s something we can learn from and put some fun back in this locker room.”

AP-ES-08-21-05 2028EDT

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