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Royals 5, White Sox 0: Rough reintroduction to the rotation

Chris Sale warms his hand, or tries to stop from throwing up.
Chris Sale warms his hand, or tries to stop from throwing up.

There's a word for what happened in the first inning: Penance.

The Sox didn't really deserve to have Chris Sale pitch like nothing happened, and they weren't granted a reprieve. Sale looked off from the first pitch, starting with a four-pitch walk and a five-pitch walk (Rob Drake didn't give him the low strik, either). Back-to-back singles by Alex Gordon and Billy Butler made it a 1-0 game.

When the defense could finally get involved, it didn't help. Sale got Jeff Francoeur to hit a bouncer to second, taking Gordon Beckham to the bag. He stepped on second, and had plenty of time to make a good throw to first. Instead, he chose to throw it high and wide. Two runs scored instead of one; the Sox recorded one out instead of two.

A swinging bunt and a bloop single later, the Royals re-loaded the bases. Sale escaped that jam with a shallow flyout and a deep flyout. Despite ut a shallow flyout and a deep flyout allowed Sale to escape the inning with no further damage. Somehow, the Royals scored just three runs despite four hits, two walks and an error.

Sale settled down afterwards. After 42 pitches in the first, he needed a far more reasonable 63 over the next four innings, all of which were scoreless and walkless.

The damage had already been done, though, because for the fourth time since the start of last season, a pitcher with an 8-plus ERA held the Sox scoreless. This time, it was Luke Hochevar (9.00 ERA) playing the role of Brad Penny/Francisco Liriano/Phil Hughes.

They mounted exactly one threat, and it was way back in the second. A.J. Pierzynski drew a walk and Alex Rios singled with one out, bringing Alexei Ramirez to the plate. Ramirez murdered a couple of balls foul, but with two strikes, he reached out with a weak swing and tapped a routine grounder to short for a 6-4-3 double play.

After that, you couldn't find a pulse on the offense. Hochevar and Greg Holland combined to retire 13 White Sox in a row before a two-out walk to Brent Morel in the eighth inning.

It's never a good sign when the middle reliever is the only reason to watch. That said, Nate Jones had all his pitches working over 2 1/3 scoreless innings, overpowering the Royals for four strikeouts while allowing just one hit.

That would have been a nice, quick way for the evening to end, but some more strange decision-making prolonged the game. With two outs, a runner on first and a 1-1 count on Alcides Escobar, Will Ohman balked by hesitating while coming to a set, then stepping off. Ohman wasn't happy with the call (apparently the hitter stepped out, calling for time), and he wasn't happy when Ventura lifted him in the middle of the at-bat, either. Ventura called for Zach Stewart, and Stewart gave up three straight hits, leading to two runs, before he could record one out.

Oh, and the game was delayed for 56 minutes for rain that never really happened, which gave the real rain enough time to show up over the last three innings. So the fans had to wait around, then sit around and get soaked while watching the flattest game the Sox played all year. That's not going to help the attendance problem.

Record: 16-18 | Box score | Play-by-play