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Royals 5, White Sox 4: One too many times to the well

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Sox dance in and out of trouble all day, but give up winning run in 8th

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Kansas City Royals
Cheslor Cuthbert and his 50 wRC+ hit two home runs.
Peter G. Aiken

White Sox pitchers didn’t have a clean inning this entire game, so the Royals could have easily scored a whole lot of runs today. The Sox offense scratched and clawed for 4 runs, and the pitching staff worked its way out of jam after jam. Hector Santiago and Chris Volstad teamed up to get this game into the 7th inning, even though they gave up 11 hits and 4 walks, and the team was able to keep the game tied into the 8th inning.

Unfortunately, they could only prevent those baserunners from scoring so many times. With the score 4-4 in the bottom of the 8th, Whit Merrifield skipped a single up the middle off of Bruce Rondon to deliver the winning run in a 5-4 White Sox loss.

Ian Kennedy started the game for the Royals, and his biggest enemy this afternoon might have been the sun. Daniel Palka hit a pair of fly balls that Royals outfielders couldn’t squeeze; the first was a 3-base error off of Alex Gordon’s glove (initially ruled a triple), and the second was a 4th-inning, 2-run double that Jorge Soler tracked to the right field wall but failed to corral.

That gave the Sox a 2-0 lead that lasted until Cheslor Cuthbert, the Royals’ banjo-hitting first baseman (.208/.293/.236 before today), launched a pair of home runs. He hit a solo shot in the 4th off of Hector Santiago and a go-ahead 3-run homer off of Chris Volstad. Both balls looked somewhat wind-aided, but they turned the Sox’s lead into a 4-2 deficit.

In the 6th, the Sox had a golden opportunity to get those runs back against left-hander Brian Flynn. Matt Davidson and Trayce Thompson (pinch-hitting for Palka) drew back-to-back walks to start the inning. Both took close 3-2 pitches, and Davidson’s looked like a strike, but the White Sox got the benefit of both calls. Tim Anderson saw the two hitters in front of him get free passes, so naturally he decided to swing at the first pitch and chopped into a 5-3 double play. Leury Garcia salvaged one run with an RBI triple, and that run became important in the 7th, when Jose Abreu got plunked, stole second base, and scored the tying run on a double by Nicky Delmonico.

In the bottom of the 7th, the Royals loaded the bases with nobody out, but the Sox managed to escape without allowing the go-ahead run to score. Volstad allowed three straight singles to start the inning, but Cuthbert hit a grounder to third, and Sanchez threw out the lead runner at home. Luis Avilan came in and coaxed a 10-footer from Jon Jay and shoveled the ball home. He then fell behind 3-0 to Alex Gordon before getting back to a full count. Gordon fouled off 2 more pitches, and then on the 8th pitch of the at-bat, Avilan threw a filthy changeup and pulled the string on Gordon to end the threat.

That was the pinnacle of the Sox’s high-flying act, but they couldn’t do it again. Rondon had an erratic 8th, hitting Alcides Escobar in the hand (it’s bruised but not broken), and throwing a high fastball that crossed up Narvaez and sailed to the backstop. Drew Butera failed to bunt Escobar to third, but Merrifield came through with a single, and Blaine Boyer got the save around a two-out infield single by Davidson.

Notes

  • The Sox and Royals each stranded 11 runners. The top of the 1st and bottom of the 5th were the only innings that ended with the bases empty.
  • Santiago did an admirable job in his first start of the season, covering 4 ⅔ innings with 86 pitches. The only run that scored on his watch was Cuthbert’s first home run, but Volstad allowed his baserunner to score on the second.
  • The Sox won 3 out of 5 in the series, and are now 4-4 on this road trip. It’s an off day tomorrow before two games in St. Louis.