Jason Vargas sounded disgusted. He is a placid presence inside the Royals clubhouse, but his displeasure was evident after a 7-6 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Monday.
“I don’t get too mad about a lot of things,” Vargas said. “But given a five-run lead in the first inning, and coughing it up midway through the fifth inning, that’s just not good enough to get it done.”
It was an evening brimming with disgust. Vargas’ narration of his night was just the start.
He allowed three homers and seven runs, both season highs. The White Sox pulverized the change-ups left hanging in the strike zone, and chased him in the fifth. Paul Konerko sealed Vargas’ misery with a two-run shot in that inning.
The Royals, 22-22, staggered after their opening outburst. A ninth-inning rally fizzled when pinch runner Jarrod Dyson got picked off second base — when the winning run was already on first.
In between, catcher Salvador Perez aggravated an injury to his right hand. Over the weekend, he jammed the area near his thumb pad. Backup Brett Hayes replaced him behind the plate for the ninth, as Perez’s hand was “real sore, real swollen,” manager Ned Yost said.
Perez underwent X-rays after the game, and the tests came back negative. He will be given a few days off to rest and allow the inflammation to clear up. Perez was not available to speak with reporters after the game.
The team hopes Perez can return by the weekend series in Anaheim. They have two more games left at Kauffman Stadium, where they can still finish with a winning record on this nine-game stand. They can only hope for better starting pitching.
If Monday’s result stung, it was because the beginning was so promising.
In the opening inning, the Royals punished a local product. Last month, Chicago promoted right-hander Scott Carroll, a 29-year-old from Liberty. Monday marked Carroll’s fifth big-league start. At the start, it looked like his worst.
The elements of the onslaught included a few well-placed singles, a rocket off the bat of Eric Hosmer and a few examples of Chicago’s defensive incompetence. Hosmer blasted a two-run double, Billy Butler had an RBI single and Lorenzo Cain roped a two-run single.
The five runs were in the books. Hosmer bounced back from a two-for-24 slump with two hits and a walk. Butler has six hits in the last two games. The offense showed signs of life.
The problem was Vargas.
“Just one of those nights,” Yost said. “Wasn’t real sharp.”
To Yost, there were two pitches Vargas regretted: That hanging change-up to Konerko in the fifth, and another to Alexi Ramirez in the third. The Royals appeared content on cruising when two runners reached in the third. Then Vargas flipped what he called “not a very good change-up” at Ramirez’s belt.
“Right when he hit it,” Vargas said, “I knew it was out.”
Dayan Viciedo boomed a solo homer in the fourth. Hosmer answered with another RBI single. But once again, Vargas faltered. Holding a 6-5 advantage, he walked Adam Dunn with two outs. Out in the bullpen, right-hander Louis Coleman was warming up.
Yost decided to stick with Vargas. Konerko entered this game with a .438 batting average in 18 at-bats. The statistics did not sway the manager.
“Vargy’s a veteran pitcher that knows how to get guys out,” Yost said. “And I just felt real strongly he could get us through the fifth inning.”
His choice backfired. Konerko went deep. Yost removed Vargas. He was a batter too late.
The Royals offense was quiet until the ninth. After Nori Aoki singled, Dyson replaced him as a pinch runner. White Sox reliever Matt Lindstrom injured himself trying to field a bunt by Alcides Escobar, so there were two runners on.
With none out, the offense had life. But Hosmer fanned for the first out. Then reliever Jake Petricka caught Dyson trying to sprint to third.
“I was going, and I got picked off,” Dyson said. “Nothing special about it.”
Butler grounded out to end the game. The anticlimax was complete.
“When they picked Dyson off,” Yost said, “that kind of put the end to it.”
To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @McCulloughStar.