Royals

Royals rally again to beat the White Sox 5-4, sweep three-game series

Lorenzo Cain smiled after slugging a solo home run in the Royals’ three-run eighth inning against the Chicago White Sox on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium.
Lorenzo Cain smiled after slugging a solo home run in the Royals’ three-run eighth inning against the Chicago White Sox on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium. jsleezer@kcstar.com

Eric Hosmer paced through the dugout on late Sunday afternoon, his voice echoing above the din, his message a simple one.

This was the bottom of the eighth inning, before a third comeback in 72 hours, before the Royals engineered another late-inning rally against a beleaguered Chicago White Sox bullpen, before a 5-4 victory had thrust Kansas City back into first place in the American League Central.

As utility man Whit Merrifield cradled a bat and prepared to lead off the inning, the Royals trailed by two runs. Chicago reliever Nate Jones had replaced ace Chris Sale. Hosmer pressed through a crowd of powder blue jerseys, passing within earshot of his manager.

“OK, boys,” Hosmer said. “This is when the magic happens.”

In one respect, the magic was conjured during a three-run eighth inning on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals erased a 4-2 deficit and completed a three-game sweep of the White Sox, 27-24, in a rain-shortened series. In the span of three days, the Kansas City offense outscored Chicago 15-1 in the seventh inning and beyond, erasing three deficits of at least two runs.

But for the Royals, who improved to 27-22 after winning for the 10th time in 13 games, the magic has run deeper than that.

Just seven days before, the Royals had lost two All-Stars on one collision on an inconsequential foul ball at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. They witnessed Alex Gordon break a bone in his hand, and they watched Mike Moustakas’ season end after a torn ACL, and one week later, they have won five of six games, plowing forward after another injury to Salvador Perez, playing a brand of relentless, opportunistic baseball that defined a championship season in 2015.

“We were just kind of waiting to click on all cylinders, and we’re starting to now,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez talks about his injury suffered in a collision with teammate a Cheslor Cuthbert and his hope to return in seven to 10 days.

The rejuvenation of a world champion has come in pieces, of course. The starting rotation has stabilized. Hosmer and center fielder Lorenzo Cain are playing at an All-Star level — evidenced by Cain’s solo homer in the decisive eighth inning. Right fielder Paulo Orlando is batting .451 during the month of May, extending his hitting streak to a career-high 12 games.

Yet the victories of the past week have been built on more than just the star power that remains. Yost said the week had been a tribute to a culture that permeates the clubhouse, an ode to the organization depth that has built up over the years. In the span of seven days, the club lost three All-Star players to injuries. The replacements have prolonged the magic.

Merrifield, a 27-year-old former ninth-round pick, is batting .375 after eight games, offering energy in the lineup and an answer at second base. Cheslor Cuthbert has filled in admirably for Moustakas at third base. Brett Eibner, once an injury-prone prospect who sat blocked by a glut of outfielders, arrived on the scene this weekend and recorded a double in his first game, a walk-off single in his second and a key game-tying walk during the eighth inning on Sunday.

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“That’s why we didn’t freak out when these injuries happened,” Yost said. “Because we knew the caliber of kids that we had to fill the gaps until they get back.”

The Royals expect Gordon to return next month while Perez is expected to miss just seven to 10 days after sustaining a quad contusion in Saturday’s victory. But for the moment, the additions of Merrifield, Cuthbert and Eibner have altered the dynamic.

“They’re continuing to produce,” said Hosmer, who was 3 for 4 with a double on Sunday. “You throw them in there — their second or third big-league game — and they come up with the game on the line. They look like they’ve been here for weeks, like they’ve been here for years. That’s special.”

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On Sunday, the young cohort came up clutch in the eighth. For seven innings, the Royals could only manage two runs against Sale, who had opened the season 9-0 before suffering a loss in his last start. In the eighth, the Kansas City offense broke broke through against a suddenly flammable Chicago bullpen.

Cuthbert punctuated the rally with a bases-loaded infield single that broke a 4-4 deadlock. The offense pieced together three runs on four hits and three walks, including an opposite-field homer from Cain that sliced the lead to 4-3 with one out in the inning. Hosmer followed by slapping a double down the left-field line. Jones, the Chicago reliever who started the inning, began to melt down, producing the third blown save of the weekend from the White Sox bullpen.

“It’s got to be in the back of their mind, ‘Oh man, here they come.’ It’s got to be,” Yost said.

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So here are the Royals, back in first place after sitting at 17-19 just 16 days earlier, their mojo regained entering a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays beginning Monday night.

On most days, Yost stresses that his lineup is a day-to-day endeavor. In recent days, the philosophy has taken on a new meaning. On Sunday, Kansas City started five players who were not in its opening-day lineup. It did not matter.

The magic surfaced in the eighth inning. A trio of young reinforcements played like unflappable veterans.

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“They’re not overwhelmed in this situation,” Yost said. “You can’t put Eibner in any more crucial situations than he’s been in his first three games. I mean, I don’t think in all my years, I might have been in two of those situations. He’s been in three of them three straight days.”

Royals 5, White Sox 4

Chicago

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Eaton rf-cf

4

0

3

1

0

0

.288

Jackson cf

3

0

1

2

0

1

.259

Sands rf

0

0

0

0

0

0

.235

Frazier 3b

4

0

0

0

0

2

.223

Cabrera lf

4

0

0

0

0

1

.281

Abreu 1b

4

1

1

0

0

0

.247

Lawrie 2b

4

0

1

0

0

1

.251

Navarro c

4

1

2

1

0

1

.236

Garcia dh

3

1

0

0

1

1

.254

Saladino ss

3

1

1

0

0

1

.269

Totals

33

4

9

4

1

8

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Escobar ss

5

0

1

0

0

0

.268

Merrifield 2b

4

1

1

0

0

0

.361

Cain cf

4

2

2

2

0

1

.292

Hosmer 1b

4

1

3

1

0

1

.319

Morales dh

2

0

0

0

2

0

.185

1-Dyson pr-dh

0

1

0

0

0

0

.264

Orlando rf

4

0

1

0

0

2

.376

Eibner lf

3

0

2

1

1

0

.455

Cuthbert 3b

3

0

1

1

1

1

.257

Butera c

3

0

0

0

1

2

.217

Totals

32

5

11

5

5

7

Chicago

010

020

100

4

9

0

Kansas City

200

000

03x

5

11

0

1-ran for Morales in the 8th.

LOB: Chicago 5, Kansas City 8. 2B: Saladino (2), Cain (7), Hosmer (11). HR: Cain (7), off Jones. RBIs: Eaton (16), Jackson 2 (18), Navarro (13), Cain 2 (28), Hosmer (30), Eibner (2), Cuthbert (4). SB: Navarro (1). CS: Eaton (2). SF: Jackson.

Runners left in scoring position: Chicago 3 (Frazier, Saladino 2); Kansas City 4 (Escobar 3, Eibner). RISP: Chicago 3 for 7; Kansas City 3 for 8.

Runners moved up: Eaton. FIDP: Morales. GIDP: Jackson.

DP: Chicago 1 (Jackson, Abreu); Kansas City 1 (Cuthbert, Merrifield, Hosmer).

Chicago

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

ERA

Sale

7

7

2

2

2

7

2.29

Jones L, 2-1

.1

3

3

3

2

0

3.66

Albers

.2

1

0

0

1

0

4.29

TableStyle: SP-basepitchersCCI Template: SP-basepitchers

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

ERA

Volquez

6

7

3

3

1

5

3.74

Hochevar

1

2

1

1

0

1

2.95

Young W, 2-5

1

0

0

0

0

1

6.48

Davis S, 14

1

0

0

0

0

1

0.96

Inherited runners-scored: Albers 3-1. HBP: Hochevar (Saladino).

Umpires: Home, Ted Barrett; First, Ryan Blakney; Second, Angel Hernandez; Third, Will Little.

Time: 3:04. Att: 36,624.

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