Edinson Volquez reached down to the pitching mound and scooped up a handful of dirt. Shaking with anger, he sprayed the sediment across the U.S. Cellular Field grass as he walked off the diamond. He had just uncorked a wild pitch to deepen the Royals’ deficit, adding to the frustration of a split result in a split doubleheader with the White Sox.
Hours after a 4-2 victory in the opener, the Royals dropped the nightcap, 2-0. The Royals could not solve familiar foe John Danks, who blanked them for six innings. Volquez gave up two runs in across 6 1/3 innings. It was a quality start, but not enough for a victory.
“John Danks, he pitched a really good game,” Volquez said. “Give some credit to him, too.”
In the first game, Alex Rios snapped a string of 157 at-bats without a home run when he took White Sox starter Jeff Samardzija deep. Mike Moustakas did the same.
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In the second game, Kansas City got four hits and four walks off Danks, who entered the game with a 5.30 ERA. But Danks, a lefty with a change-up that often troubles the Royals, kept them scoreless.
“It’s never good when you win the first one and lose the second,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “If you lose the first one and win the second, you feel a lot better. But it’s just one of those things.”
The split left the Royals, 53-35, stationary to start the second half. The doubleheader marked the start of a lengthy stretch of baseball. The club won’t receive a day off until Aug. 3.
The group dispersed over the All-Star break. Chris Young threw a bullpen session at a high school near his home in San Diego. After managing Tuesday in Cincinnati, Yost tended his farm in Georgia, a pleasurable experience only muddled when he drove his tractor into a sinkhole. Alex Gordon skipped the Midsummer Classic to begin treatment on his strained hamstring.
“Gordo, what are you doing here?” Lorenzo Cain shouted when he saw Gordon walking, without crutches, through the clubhouse.
The players settled down to catch up over breakfast. A clubhouse television showed highlights from the All-Star Game. The package skipped Cain’s RBI double — “What do I gotta do for them to show me some love?” Cain quipped — but did show Moustakas’ futile efforts against Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman.
“What were you swinging at?” someone asked as Moustakas waved at Chapman’s 103-mph fastball.
The energy carried into the game’s first inning. Cain opened the scoring against Samardzija, his old nemesis. The last time these two interacted at U.S. Cellular Field, they were throwing haymakers during a bench-clearing brawl on April 23. Cain harbors great animosity toward Samardzija, who plunked him on opening day at Kauffman Stadium. He exacted the best sort of revenge in the first inning.
Alcides Escobar led off with a walk. He swiped second as Moustakas struck out. Cain received a 2-0 fastball at the thighs. He roped it into the left-field corner to carry his hot streak past the All-Star break. He did not hide his happiness about dinging Samardzija.
“It always good to get a few knocks off him,” Cain said. “But the main goal is go out there and win.”
The lead lasted two innings. Young fell behind catcher Geovany Soto, 3-1, in the third inning. Soto lifted an 87-mph fastball deep enough to clear the left-field fence.
Moustakas broke the deadlock in the fifth. He bested Samardzija in a 12-pitch tango. After giving up two strikes, Moustakas fouled off six fastballs. At last he bashed a full-count, 96-mph heater and watched it disappear beyond the wall in center field.
“You’re just trying to battle,” Moustakas said. “A guy like that, throwing the stuff he’s got, you’re just trying to fight. You’re just trying to do whatever you can to make contact, put the ball in play.”
The euphoria was short-lived. Adam Eaton, Chicago’s undersized center fielder, punished Young for hanging a change-up. The homer tied the game.
Early in the afternoon, Young felt his back “lock up,” he explained later. He also felt rusty after the long layoff over the break, and his pitches lacked their usual crispness. He issued a season-high four walks. His back made life more uncomfortable as the game continued.
“It’ll be fine,” Young said. “But it’s no fun when it gets that way.”
An inning later, Rios pounced on a slider by Samardzija. By then, the Royals had already reclaimed the lead. Omar Infante made a productive ground-out when he hit into a double play three batters into the sixth. Eric Hosmer, who had doubled, scored from third base.
But the second game of the doubleheader featured few reasons to cheer. Volquez gave up a two-out triple to Avisail Garcia in the second. He scored on a single by catcher Tyler Flowers.
The Royals still trailed by only one when the sixth inning began. Melky Cabrera smoked a sinker into the gap. Left fielder Paulo Orlando flagged down the ball and spun to make an impressive throw to second base. The baseball skipped into Infante’s glove ahead of Cabrera. But with Infante positioned on the outside of the bag, Cabrera slid safely to the inside.
“If there was a reason to challenge,” Yost said, “I would have challenged.
Cabrera took third base on a deep drive by first baseman Adam LaRoche. With two outs, Volquez had a chance to strand his man. Instead, he lost the handle on a curveball facing Garcia, trying to walk him to face Flowers. The ball bounced all the way over the netting behind the plate. Cabrera scored, the deficit doubled and Volquez steamed all the way back to the dugout.
“Now, the game’s over, and it would have been 1-0,” Volquez said. “So it’s not a big deal.”