Jim Palmer drew large crowds to a downtown Kansas City department store Monday afternoon when he made a special appearance to sign underwear ads.

Tonight, Palmer, who also pitches for the Baltimore Orioles, was nearly undressed by the Kansas City Royals in the first inning of a 6-1 defeat.

The Royals, who lead the American League's Western Division by 13 1/2 games, almost made Palmer's outing a brief one when four of the first five batters scored.

Kansas City, which has a .290 team batting average, battered Palmer into his ninth loss agianst 12 wins.

Rich Gale went the distance for Kansas City, picking up his second straight complete game and his ninth straight victory to boost his season record to 11-7. He gave up six hits.

Palmer left after seven innings and was charged with all six Kansas City runs. He gave up eight hits and five walks while striking out only one.

Oriole Manager Earl Weaver was not overly disappointed in this loss. The New York Yankees also fell, so the Birds rain 3 1/2 games behind going into a five-game series between the two Eastern-Division front-runners that begins Thursday night in Baltimore.

"We're going out and win some games," Weaver said. "If we are only four behind in the loss column after this 11-game stretch, it's a very realistic pennant race.

"We were 4-2 on this road trip. Think how you would feel if you had lost the first two and then won the next four. Ti's the same thing. All that matters is what the numbers say when you add them up at the end of 162 games."

Ken Singleton agreed with Weaver.

"I don't think it makes any difference when you lost the games," the Oriole right fielder said. "You have to feel pretty good when you go on the road and finish 4-2 against the two teams with the best records in baseball."

George Brett and Co. won their 11th consecutive series and evened their season record with the Orioles at six games apiece. The Royals were 8-4 against the Yankees this year.

"Palmer is like a lot of great pitchers," said Royal Manager Jim Frey, who spent 10 years as a coach under Weaver. "If you are going to get to Jim, you better get to him early before he settles down."

Willie Wilson led of the Royals' half of the first and a triple to the 385-foot sign in right-center. Palmer got Frank White to pop out to second base, but Brett singled though the middle to stretch his hitting streak to 26 games and score Wilson.

Palmer walked Darrell Porter on four pitches and threw three straight slow curves to designated hitter Willie Aikens. Aikens watched the first two go by for balls and deposited the third in the Royal's bullpen in right field for a three-run homer and a 4-0 lead.

Still struggling with his control and apparently lacking confidence in his fast ball, Palmer gave up a double to Amos Otis and a walk to John Wathan before Pete LaCock lined into an inning-ending double play.

Eddie Murray led off the Oriole second with a double to the base of the wall in a right-center, but Gale got John Lowenstein on a grounder to second and left Murray stranded on third as Dan Graham and Doug DeCinces popped out.

Palmer survived the second without further damage despite a leadoff single by U.L. Washington. Graham gunned down Washington on a steal attempt. Wilson was out on a line drive to center and White was unable to get on base on a grounder to third.

The Orioles got a run back in the third as Rich Dauer singled, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on Kiko Garcia's double to left.

Garcia saved a run for the Orioles in the bottom of the fourth. With two out, Palmer walked LaCock on four pitches. The Royals' part-time first baseman, who came into the game with a .195 batting average and no stolen bases, promptly swiped second. Garcia then made a diving stop of Washington's grounder to keep LaCock from scoring and threw out Wilson for the third out.

The Royals picked up their fifth run in the sixth with one out. Palmer walked Otis, who went to third on a hit-and-run single to center by Wathan. Otis scored when Lenn Sakata bobbled LaCock's slow grounder to second.

Sakata had entered the game in the third inning when Dauer moved to third to replace DeCinces, who bruised his knee in the first inning.

The Orioles never threatened to score against Gale despite getting lead-off singles by Dauer in the fifth and by Graham in the seventh in addition to Murray's leadoff double in the second.

Palmer pitched his way into more trouble in the seventh, walking White to start the inning. The Royals played hit and run again and Brett lined his second hit of the game to the center. White scored the Royals' sixth run as Porter grounded into a double play.

Gale got the Orioles in order in the eighth and ninth innings. David Ford, who replaced Palmer in the eighth, retired the Royals with the help of a double play.