The luster of that early June surge looks increasingly tarnished after the Royals suffered a fourth straight loss Saturday in falling 3-2 to the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium.
Alejandro De Aza provided the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the ninth inning after the Royals’ near-silent attack failed to take the lead in the eighth despite getting a runner to third with one out.
“We’re 10 times better than this,” center fielder Lorenzo Cain said. “Offensively, we haven’t been showing it at all this season. We’re definitely not as consistent as we need to be.
“That includes myself. I need to pick it up. I had a chance to turn the game twice, and I definitely didn’t get it done. We need to start scoring some runs because our pitchers have been outstanding all year.”
Added designated hitter Billy Butler: “It’s frustrating because the starting pitching has been good. A game like today … Wade (Davis) definitely put us in a position where we should win that game.”
Dayan Viciedo opened the Chicago ninth with a hopper up the middle for a single against Aaron Crow. After Jordan Danks replaced Viciedo as a pinch-runner, Jeff Keppinger drew a walk.
“You can’t give free passes in tight games in the ninth inning,” Crow said. “That’s what beat us.”
Manager Ned Yost opted to call on his closer, Greg Holland, at that point with no outs and runners at first and second. Chicago countered by sending up Gordon Beckham to pinch-hit for Tyler Flowers.
The White Sox responded with the sort of situational hitting that doomed the Royals an inning earlier. Beckham hit a fly to center that moved Danks to third. De Aza followed with a sacrifice fly.
“It seems like we’re always on the losing end of the one-run games,” Keppinger said, “so to fundamentally get a sac fly to get the go-ahead run was pretty fulfilling.”
That was it.
Addison Reed worked a scoreless ninth for his 21st save in 23 opportunities. Jesse Crain, whom the Royals let off the hook in the eighth, got the victory and improved to 2-1. Crow, 3-3, was the loser.
“The difference in the game is we both had the same situation late,” Yost said, “Had the winning run on third base (with one out). They executed, and we didn’t.”
The Royals’ big chance came in the eighth after Eric Hosmer’s one-out fly to right-center turned into a triple against Crain.
Either right fielder Alex Rios or De Aza, racing over from center, could have caught the ball. Rios appeared positioned for a routine catch but short-armed the ball when the two players converged.
The ball fell between them, but the Royals couldn’t cash the opportunity.
Salvy Perez popped to second. Butler walked, and pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson stole second, but Cain struck out on a 1-2 curve nowhere near the strike zone.
“He threw me two sliders and two curveballs,” Cain said. “What can you say? He’s a good pitcher, and he was locked in. He got me out.”
The key at-bat, for Yost, was the Perez pop-up. Perez had shown patience in delivering a game-tying RBI single in the sixth but, Yost said, got overanxious against Crain.
“Not picking Sal,” Yost said, “but he had a situation where he came through where be battled deep into the at-bat (in the sixth) with the infield in and got the base-hit.
“The next time, you want to get in a hurry to get it done instead of taking your time to get it done. He swung at two fastballs up, and he ended up popping up to the infield.”
The loss wasted a fine effort by Davis, who delivered a fourth straight strong start: two runs in seven innings. That makes just six earned runs in his last 24⅔ innings and a corresponding drop in ERA from 6.16 to 4.96.
“I’m just making better pitches overall,” he said. “I’m getting ahead of guys and putting them away instead of lagging on it and going deeper into counts. It’s a work in progress, but you keep going.”
The Royals trailed 2-1 when Alcides Escobar opened the sixth with a double past third base against Chicago starter Jose Quintana. Escobar went to third on Hosmer’s grounder to second.
The White Sox shortened their infield for Perez, but it didn’t matter. His sharp single through the left side on a 3-2 fastball would have likely gotten through even if the infield had been positioned at normal depth.
The Royals had a chance for more.
When Quintana walked Butler, the White Sox went to their bullpen for Matt Lindstrom, whose first pitch resulted in a double-play grounder from Cain.
“Another tough day,” Cain said. “I don’t know what to say. I’ve just been struggling. I’ve been struggling big time. I’ve just got to get out of this rut I’m in.”
Quintana’s final line showed two runs and five hits in 5⅓ innings for a no-decision.
The Royals opened the scoring after Miguel Tejada’s two-out single in the second inning. Mike Moustakas followed with an RBI double into the right-center gap for a 1-0 lead … his first RBI since May 23.
Chicago took the lead with a two-run fourth after Davis started the inning by walking Adam Dunn. Paul Konerko followed with a single past Escobar into center that moved Dunn to second.
Conor Gillaspie’s single up the middle tied the game. Viciedo grounded into a double play, but Keppinger blooped a two-out RBI single into right for a 2-1 lead.
The Royals could point to some positives. Hosmer and Moustakas each had two hits. For Moustakas, that makes three straight multi-hit games. Hosmer is batting .325 in June and has his season average up to .281.
Overall, though, the Royals continue to squander what has been, by far, the American League’s best pitching staff and, arguably, the league’s top defense.
While Yost remains convinced the Royals will gel eventually into a solid attack, he also admits, “we’re all scratching our head” in waiting for it to happen.
“It’s a learning process for some of these guys,” he said. “Is it taking longer than we would like it to take? Yeah, absolutely.”