Somewhere in the book of never-written but always-honored baseball rules is the one that says players should never flinch after one early-season loss, no matter how unsightly, no matter how disappointing.

Ryan Howard broke that rule Friday.

While dressing quickly and preparing to leave, the Phillies’ former MVP waited for what he would call with moderate playfulness “the circus” and turn to meet the press after a 13-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals.

He was not in a mood to clown around.

“Very, very,” he said, when asked how disappointing the loss was, particularly after the Phils had constructed a four-run lead. “We let this game just slip out of our fingers. We got out on them early, and those guys didn’t quit. They didn’t back down. And they kept swinging.”

Howard went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, and was in the middle of a first-inning breeze of franchise nostalgia when he followed singles by Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley with a sharp hit to right, driving in a run. His third-inning single plated Utley for the 4-0 lead.

But after the Phillies collected nine hits in four innings, including home runs by Domonic Brown and Erik Kratz, they would go the final five innings without one.

“We kept going out there and kept trying to swing,” Howard said. “They made the pitching change and things didn’t fall for us. And they started falling for them. Sometimes, that’s baseball. That’s kind of the hard luck of it.”

After bullying Kansas City starter Wade Davis, the Phils were muffled by Bruce Chen, J.C. Gutierrez, Tim Collins and Luke Hochevar, all while Kyle Kendrick, Jeremy Horst, Chad Durbin and Raul Valdes were disintegrating.