By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Kansas City Royals are going through a rough patch, but leading hitter Eric Hosmer believes the humbling experience can help turn around the defending World Series champions.
The Royals got off to flying start to the 2016 Major League Baseball season but have since lost 10 of their last 13 games to fall seven games behind the American League Central-leading Chicago White Sox.
"Sometimes teams need that, you need to get knocked off your high horse every now and then," Hosmer told Reuters before the Royals lost the opening game of their four-game series against the New York Yankees on Monday.
"It humbled the guys a little bit. Now we'll try to get that energy back and try to get back to playing the game in our type of style."
Kansas City, after decades of futility, used strong pitching and an opportunistic offense marked by aggressive baserunning to become one of the sport's elite teams.
The Royals, who lost the decisive seventh game of the 2014 World Series to the San Francisco Giants, beat the New York Mets in five games last year to end a 30-year drought since their last MLB crown.
But their dominance has disappeared in recent weeks and while it is early in the 162-game season the Royals (15-16) will need to sort things out quickly before falling too far out of contention.
"We're just not all really clicking in one night," said first baseman Hosmer, who leads the team with a .336 batting average, but is the only regular hitting above .300. "We're confident it's going to change."
The Royals are scoring an average of 3.4 runs a game this season, down more than a run from last year, and in their last 10 losses have scored just 17 runs.
Speedy outfielder Jarrod Dyson said it was just a matter of time before the Royals find their stride.
"We ain’t going to hang our heads. We know everybody is chasing our coat tail," Dyson said. "I put it like this, if you're going to struggle, it’s best to struggle and get it out of the way early. It will work out itself."
Shortstop Alcides Escobar said the Royals are getting the best effort from every opponent.
"Some teams, they trying to play really hard against us. I like that," the Venezuelan said. "That is respect, and I like that."
Escobar said pride will help the Royals rise.
"That's what everybody wants, two years in a row to the World Series," he said about the envy felt by other teams. "Everybody in this room wants to go again to the World Series."
Hosmer said the team embraced high expectations, especially the core of young players who came up together in the system and revitalized the franchise, including himself, catcher Salvador Perez and third baseman Mike Moustakas, who last week landed on the disabled list with a fractured thumb.
"Each guy takes pride in what we’ve done with this organization and how we've turned it around," said Hosmer. "We want to continue to build on this. There is still a lot more out there for us to get."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)