KANSAS CITY -- Only 41 pitches had been thrown and barely 30 minutes had elapsed of the Giants' 7-4 loss, when the full scope of Tim Lincecum's rough start Sunday came into focus.
After just one hitter in the second inning, sensing the possibility of a brief start from Lincecum, preparations began in the form of bullpen action.
Lincecum escaped the second, but two innings later, his outing flatlined. For the second time in his last three starts, the two-time National League Cy Young Award winner lasted 3 1/3 innings. On July 22, his ERA settled at a season-low 3.56. In four starts since then, it's ballooned to 4.51.
"I didn't execute a lot of pitches I needed to in big spots," said Lincecum, who fell victim to a four-run Royals first inning. "They feasted on me in the first inning."
San Francisco's fourth straight loss culminated in a 4-6 record on its 10-game road trip. It enters a two-game home series with the White Sox beginning Tuesday as losers of 12 of its last 17 games.
The Royals took advantage of a rusty Lincecum in all facets of the game. With him on the mound, they collected seven hits, scored six runs, swiped five bags, drew three walks and slugged a home run.
This complete approach was exemplified in Kansas City's four-run first, which featured two four-pitch walks, a steal, a wild pitch to score a run and back-to-back run-scoring extra-base hits by Billy Butler (RBI double) and Alex Gordon (two-run home run). The Royals led, 4-0, after the frame.
"That's a tough inning, getting down four runs against this club," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
Kansas City stole seven bases in all, the most steals against San Francisco since 2009.
"We did a good job of pressuring him all day on the basepaths," said Gordon, who credited first-base coach Rusty Kuntz for the onslaught. "Rusty did a good job of letting us know that he's slow to the plate and we could maybe steal some bases today, and that's what [Alcides] Escobar, [Jarrod] Dyson and [Nori] Aoki did today."
Aoki (three steals), Dyson (three steals) and Escobar (one steal) running amok on the bases fractured Lincecum's focus on the mound.
"I'd be lying if I said it didn't affect me a little bit when I tried to go to home plate with runners on base like Dyson and Alcides," Lincecum said. "With that I was just trying to go too quick to home plate. It was just kind of throwing me off.
With a rookie in Andrew Susac behind the plate, Lincecum took the onus for failing to contain the running game.
"I'm a seven-year vet now; I need to take that under my control. That's my responsibility, those runners out there," Lincecum said.
Lincecum temporarily stopped the bleeding with scoreless second and third innings, but Kansas City went back to work in the fourth. Bochy removed Lincecum after the right-hander allowed an RBI single to Aoki. Two batters later, Salvador Perez blasted a two-run home run off Juan Gutierrez, making it 7-1.
Bochy credited his team for not caving in at this juncture of the game. Royals starter Danny Duffy cruised through the first six innings with just two hits and one run on his ledger. But San Francisco struck for three runs in the seventh behind a two-run double by Susac and an RBI single from Hunter Pence. Royals reliever Jason Frasor quelled the threat by inducing a groundout from Buster Posey, who represented the tying run.
The Giants' second opportunity to complete a massive comeback came in the ninth. They loaded the bases on Royals closer Greg Holland for Pablo Sandoval, who could have tied it with a bases-clearing hit or put the Giants ahead with a grand slam. A double nearly came to fruition as he smoked a liner to right-center, but Dyson tracked it down.
"I thought when Pablo hit the ball, it had a chance maybe to get in the gap. I thought he pulled it a little bit more," Bochy said.
San Francisco fell to 5-22 since June 5 against teams currently above .500.
Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.