CHICAGO — Are the Royals rolling or what?
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
A slump-ridden Alex Gordon hammered a two-run homer in the 12th inning Sunday afternoon that provided the winning margin in a 4-2 victory that completed a three-game weekend sweep over the Chicago White Sox.
Gordon was hitless in five at-bats prior to his homer, which came on a 2-2 fastball from White Sox reliever Donnie Veal, 1-1, with Jarrod Dyson at third base and no outs.
“It’s a long year, and it’s a long day,” Gordon said. “You’ve just got to stay with it. I’m trying to take every at-bat and bear down. Defense and pitching kept us in the game. Jarrod Dyson had a huge play.”
Dyson made a game-saving play by throwing out Blake Tekotte at the plate for the final out in the 10th inning before starting the winning rally with an infield single — what was scored an infield single, anyway.
And the pitching was terrific on both sides with the bullpens matching zeroes until Gordon’s homer after Bruce Chen and Chicago’s Hector Santiago each delivered quality starts.
“It was going to be one of those days where whoever blinks first is probably in trouble, and our defense didn’t allow us to blink,” manager Ned Yost said. “Dyson made a tremendous throw.”
The victory also pulled the Royals, 51-51, back to .500 for the first time since June 17. They are 8-2 since returning from the All-Star break but still trail first-place Detroit by seven games.
“That very important,” Chen said. “Ever since we had that bad (8-20) month in May, we have been battling in trying to get to .500. Finally, after a lot of work, we’re able to get there.
“It’s not only about getting to .500. We want to get ourselves over .500.”
Gordon’s 406-foot drive cleared the center-field wall after Dyson reached third on an infield single, a steal and a throwing error by catcher Josh Phegley.
None of that matters, though, if Dyson doesn’t throw out Tekotte, who tried to score from second on Alejandro De Aza’s two-out single in the 10th inning against Tim Collins.
“When the ball was hit, I tried my best not to run too hard,” Dyson said. “I didn’t want to bobble it. I wanted to make sure I caught it first.
“When I caught it, I looked up and saw the guy just getting to third. I didn’t try to do too much with the throw. I just wanted to get it there on one hop.”
Aaron Crow, 7-3, got the victory when Greg Holland closed out the game by working around a two-on, one-out jam for his 27th save. Crow pitched a one-two-three 11th inning.
The Royals used five relievers after Chen worked the first six innings.
Dyson started the 12th with a grounder to second that usually sure-handed Gordon Beckham bobbled after making a charging pick-up. It was scored, perhaps charitably, a single.
“That’s a single,” Dyson insisted. “That’s a tough play for him to make. That’s what speed do. If you can’t get a grip, put it back in the glove.”
Dyson stole second and went to third on Phegley’s throwing error, which prompted the White Sox to shorten their infield — extra short — with Dyson at third and no outs.
It didn’t matter when Gordon hit the ball over the center-field wall.
“With Dyson on third, I’m just trying to make something happen,” he said. “With his speed, you just put the ball in play and see what he can do. Especially with two strikes, I was just trying to battle.”
The Royals provided Chen with leads of 1-0 and 2-1, but he settled for a no-decision when he handed a 2-2 game to Luke Hochevar to start the Chicago seventh.
Chen allowed two runs and just three hits in his six innings while striking out five and walking two. It marked his third straight quality start — three runs in 18 innings — since replacing Luis Mendoza in the rotation.
Santiago also got a no-decision after limiting the Royals to two runs and five hits in 6 2/3 innings. He departed after Eric Hosmer’s two-out single in the seventh.
“When it comes to Kansas City, you’ve got to get them early in the game,” White Sox veteran Paul Konerko said. “They have a lot of great arms in the bullpen.
“They probably have the best bullpen we face all year, not to take anything away the other ones. Man for man, they’re probably as good as it gets.”
Hochevar, Kelvin Herrera, Collins, Crow and Holland combined for six scoreless innings.
“Timely hits come because of pitching,” Gordon said. “That’s what it was. I had a lot of chances today and finally came through.”
The Royals struck early by grabbing a 1-0 lead on David Lough’s two-out RBI single in the first inning. Chicago answered later in the inning on a two-out RBI single by Konerko.
Lough’s one-out walk in the fourth turned into a run when Miguel Tejada followed with a double to left. Chen nursed that 2-1 lead into the sixth before surrendering a one-out homer to Adam Dunn.
“I was making good pitches, and I thought I could sneak one by him,” Chen said. “After off-speeding him a lot, I thought there’s no way he’s looking fastball, but I guess he was looking fastball.”
Dunn hit that fastball an estimated 431 feet to center field. That was it until Gordon’s homer, which turned around an afternoon filled with personal frustration.
“Alex Gordon was having a bit of a day before that swing, but he always competes,” Yost said. “He just puts everything behind him and goes out and tries to give you a real productive at-bat. It just took a little longer.”