HOUSTON (AP) - The Houston Astros had runners on second and third when Chris Snyder struck out to end the sixth inning and slammed his bat to the ground in frustration.
It was that kind of day.
Jordan Lyles pitched seven solid innings, but the Astros left 11 runners on base in a 2-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday.
``It's the key situations where we're just not able to find the holes,' Astros manager Brad Mills said. ``There's a lot of things we can point to like guys trying too hard and putting a little too much pressure on themselves. When you start to struggle in those situations, it starts to mount.'
Houston put runners on the corners with one out in the ninth, but Jonathan Broxton struck out Brian Bixler and retired Jordan Schafer to earn his 18th save in 21 chances.
Royals manager Ned Yost was impressed with Broxton's poise.
``The thing about him is he doesn't panic,' Yost said. ``He stays calm and continues to make pitches.'
The Astros had eight hits, compared to just four for Kansas City, but they went 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position. They dropped to 3-8 when stranding 10 or more runners.
Houston has lost seven of nine overall.
``I had a little snap there in the sixth inning, but it's not about pressing but just being in the game and wanting to come through there,' Snyder said. ``When the guy you're catching has been dealing, you want to do something for him.'
Lyles (1-4) allowed two runs and three hits while matching his longest outing of the season. He has bounced around between the Astros and Triple-A Oklahoma City this season.
``I've been looking for an outing where I can just turn that corner,' Lyles said. ``Hopefully, this was it and that's what I'm striving for. It is big because I know I can pitch up here and get outs.'
Lyles recorded 11 outs on ground balls and struck out four, success he attributed to his curveball. He said he incorporated a new curveball grip that he learned from teammate Wandy Rodriguez.
Lyles didn't seem worried about the lack of run support.
``I know we got the loss, but we're going to put things together soon and get on a hot streak,' Lyles said.
The Royals grabbed a 1-0 lead in the fifth. Mike Moustakas hit a leadoff double, moved up on Alcides Escobar's grounder and scored on Brayan Pena's infield out.
Kansas City tacked on another run in the sixth when Alex Gordon tripled and scored when on shortstop Jed Lowrie's error. Mills said the error hurt Lyles' chances of earning his second win in seven starts this season.
``He's been absolutely outstanding these last three games, but we've made three errors that have completely cost us,' Mills said. ``That's too bad because he's throwing the ball extremely well and we'd like for him to get something for that.'
Yost was impressed with Lyles.
``We did not have good swings at him,' Yost said. ``He threw the ball extremely well. He located his pitches extremely well, had a good curveball.'
Houston got on the board in the bottom of the sixth, but lost out on a chance for a bigger rally.
Schafer and Carlos Lee led off with walks, J.D. Martinez grounded into a double play, advancing Schafer to third and Lowrie followed with an infield single to bring Schafer home.
Chris Johnson then chased Bruce Chen (2-1) with a single, but Snyder struck out to end the inning.
The Astros also had a chance to take the lead in the eighth. Lee hit a one-out single into right field, barely beating Jeff Francoeur's throw to first. Martinez then walked before Greg Holland struck out Lowrie and Johnson to end the inning.
Chen (2-1) allowed one run and five hits, struck out six and walked two.
NOTES: Houston pitcher Bud Norris, on the DL with a sprained knee, threw a light side session and is expected to start for Triple-A Oklahoma on Saturday. ... Mills said OF Fernando Martinez, on the DL for concussion-like symptoms, could begin a rehabilitation assignment in the next couple of days. ... Houston CF Justin Maxwell left with a sprained left ankle. ... Both teams are off on Thursday before Houston hosts the Indians and Kansas City plays the Cardinals.
The Associated Press News Service
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