Royals

Overworked Alexander falters for Royals, who are eliminated from AL Central race

Royals thought Scott Alexander was best option

Manager Ned Yost sent reliever Scott Alexander out for the ninth inning of a tie game. Alexander allowed two runs and the Royals lost 5-3 at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017.
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Manager Ned Yost sent reliever Scott Alexander out for the ninth inning of a tie game. Alexander allowed two runs and the Royals lost 5-3 at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017.

Sitting in his Kauffman Stadium office Wednesday morning, Royals manager Ned Yost made a list of his available relievers. It was short — former closer Kelvin Herrera, who pitched a perfect eighth later that day, and newcomer Mike Morin were the only ones he could say an emphatic “yes” for.

Scott Alexander was a definite “no.” He’d thrown 75 pitches in the last week, and pitched in four of the five previous games.

Then Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar drove in an eighth-inning run to cut the White Sox’s lead hours later, and the phone rang in the bullpen for at least the fourth time that day. Alexander stretched as the Royals rallied, and he trotted out to the mound for the ninth inning of a tied game to Daughtry’s “There And Back Again.”

“(Alexander) came through today and said, ‘Look, I can go. I’m good. I can go,’ ” Yost said. “And through much discussion, we just figured they were all in the same boat down there. Trust the player.”

Alexander fumbled after getting the leadoff hitter to ground out. He couldn’t locate his sinker, a pitch Yost had raved about time and again throughout the last few weeks. Alexander allowed a single, a walk and a stolen base — with a wild pitch for good measure — before a sacrifice fly off the bat of Jose Abreu did him in.

Another run eventually crossed the plate for the White Sox, and the Royals lost 5-3 on Wednesday. It was their first series loss this month.

The defeat also officially eliminated the Royals in the American League Central race. They also fell 3  1/2 games back of the Twins in the race for the second AL wild-card spot.

Rookie Jakob Junis already had a tall task ahead of him Thursday night, when he’ll start against a team in the throes of a 21-game winning streak as the Royals begin a four-game series in Cleveland.

A volatile 3-4 home stand made that task no easier.

The pressure might have lessened a bit, had Escobar and Whit Merrifield not committed base-running blunders to end what could have been game-changing rallies Wednesday.

“The back end of it is, is you’ve got to make sure you can steal the base,” Yost said. “There’s gotta be no question. It’s gotta be like 99 percent, you know.”

Merrifield was caught trying to swipe home on a double steal with no outs in the first inning, a play Merrifield said the Royals had practiced. Yost had not anticipated it.

The plan backfired, and the Royals didn’t get on the board until Salvador Perez hit a solo home run in the sixth inning.

In the eighth, after reaching second on Alex Gordon’s game-tying ground-out, Escobar tried to “push the envelope,” Yost said, with his own attempt to steal third with two outs. He was initially ruled safe, but the replay showed White Sox third baseman Tyler Saladino tagging Escobar on the shoulder before his feet reached the bag.

“I wanted to be aggressive to get to third but I was out,” Escobar told The Star in Spanish. “That’s just what happens. Sometimes we’re going to make mistakes and we have to learn from them. … It cost us in the first inning and it cost us with my mistake in the eighth.”

This is the Royals’ new normal. Or maybe it’s not so new anymore, since the last time they got a starter to finish the seventh inning was Danny Duffy on July 31. Eric Skoglund offered little relief Wednesday, as he allowed three runs and only pitched three innings.

Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Peter Moylan came in and said he was available to pitch today, despite manager Ned Yost saying he needed to give Moylan a day's rest.

The fact remains: The Royals had to dig into their taxed bullpen in the fourth inning on Wednesday. They’ll travel to Cleveland with a relief corps that has thrown a majors-leading 59 innings in September. They’ll run head-first into a team that during a historic stretch has outscored opponents 139-35.

In that same stretch, which began Aug. 24, the Royals (72-73) have amassed an 8-12 record and lost by 11 or more runs four times. They went from two games above .500 to one below the even mark after losing this series to the White Sox.

Overcoming future mistakes won’t be easy.

“We’re all working together to battle and battle to win whatever way we can,” Escobar said.

White Sox 5, Royals 3

Chicago

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Anderson ss

5

1

2

0

0

1

.255

Moncada 2b

3

1

2

0

1

0

.207

Abreu 1b

4

0

0

1

0

2

.303

Garcia rf

5

1

3

1

0

0

.325

Davidson dh

4

0

0

0

1

2

.216

Saladino 3b

2

1

1

1

1

0

.192

Sanchez ph-3b

1

0

0

0

0

0

.271

Smith c

4

1

1

0

0

0

.279

Liriano lf

3

0

0

0

0

1

.208

Delmonico ph-lf

1

0

0

0

0

0

.278

Engel cf

4

0

1

2

0

2

.187

Totals

36

5

10

5

3

8

 

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Merrifield 2b

2

0

0

0

2

1

.285

Cain cf

4

0

2

0

0

0

.301

Cabrera rf

4

0

0

0

1

0

.288

Hosmer 1b

4

0

0

0

1

2

.325

Perez c

4

2

2

1

0

0

.261

Moustakas 3b

4

0

0

0

0

1

.273

Moss dh

4

0

1

0

0

0

.211

Gore pr-dh

0

1

0

0

0

0

.000

Escobar ss

4

0

2

1

0

1

.250

Gordon lf

4

0

1

1

0

0

.206

Totals

34

3

8

3

4

5

 

Chicago

021

000

002

5

10

1

Kansas City

000

001

020

3

8

0

E: Moncada (7). LOB: Chicago 9, Kansas City 10. 2B: Garcia (23), Engel (11). HR: Perez (25), off Giolito. RBIs: Abreu (93), Garcia (70), Saladino (10), Engel 2 (20), Perez (73), Escobar (47), Gordon (42). SB: Anderson (11), Merrifield (29), Gore (1). CS: Merrifield (5), Escobar (6). SF: Abreu.

Runners left in scoring position: Chicago 4 (Anderson, Abreu, Davidson, Smith); Kansas City 5 (Hosmer 2, Perez 2, Gordon). RISP: Chicago 3 for 8; Kansas City 3 for 11. Runners moved up: Escobar, Gordon.

Chicago

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Giolito

6 1/3

4

1

1

3

3

93

2.56

Infante

0

1

0

0

1

0

16

3.33

Bummer

 2/3

0

0

0

0

0

4

5.60

Farquhar

 2/3

3

2

2

0

1

22

4.43

Minaya, W, 3-2

1 1/3

0

0

0

0

1

22

5.26

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Skoglund

3

5

3

2

2

2

66

9.53

McCarthy

3

2

0

0

0

4

38

2.75

Moylan

1

1

0

0

0

1

24

3.60

Herrera

1

0

0

0

0

0

8

4.47

Alexander, L, 4-4

 2/3

2

2

2

1

0

20

2.26

Morin

 1/3

0

0

0

0

1

6

6.75

Infante pitched to 2 batters in the 7th.

Hold: Bummer (3). Blown save: Farquhar (2). Inherited runners-scored: Infante 1-0, Bummer 3-0, Minaya 1-0, Morin 1-0. HBP: Giolito (Cain), Moylan (Moncada), Minaya (Merrifield). WP: Alexander. PB: Perez (3).

Umpires: Home, Ron Kulpa; First, Chris Conroy; Second, Ryan Blakney; Third, Jerry Meals. Time: 3:23. Att: 25,665.

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