KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Back-to-back 7-6 losses to the Chicago White Sox suddenly have the Royals scrambling to salvage a winning homestand.
The Royals, now 4-4 on the homestand, got just a so-so performance out of Yordano Ventura (six innings, seven hits, four runs), another disappointing relief effort from Aaron Crow (three-run homer to Adam Dunn) and not quite enough offensive heroics at the end to rally from a 7-2 deficit.
The Royals made it interesting in the ninth when with two out, Billy Butler smashed a double to right and then scored on Alex Gordon’s single to make it 7-6.
Jarrod Dyson pinch ran for Gordon and stole second, though that steal had to survive a replay challenge (it did). But Lorenzo Cain struck out on three pitches, ending the game.
"Two straight games, we had a chance at the end," Billy Butler said. "Those one-run losses kind of sting a bit.
"But we showed a lot of resiliency. We didn’t quit when we got down 7-2."
— Danny making his case. Manager Ned Yost isn’t calling it an audition, but Danny Valencia got the start at third base with a right-hander going while Mike Moustakas sat. Yost said he simply wanted to try it out. Well, Valencia sure made a case for himself. He smashed a two-run double to right-center in the second inning, added another single in the sixth and drew a big walk in the eighth. He also played flawlessly in the field. "I thought he played a good game," Yost said.
— Cain is daring. Cain got a single and an RBI in the eighth inning, pulling the Royals within 7-4. Then Cain boldly stole second base with Valencia up. After Valencia walked, Cain, even more boldly, stole third. Cain then scored on a wild pitch, making it 7-5. That was some big-time base running from the second-fastest Royal. But alas, Cain did strike out on three pitches with the tying run on second in the ninth, ending the game.
— Ciriaco has a day. Pedro Ciriaco, filling in at second base after Johnny Giavotella was sent back to Omaha, had a fine day at the plate with two singles and a stolen base. He was patient in the eighth, waiting for his pitch and keeping the rally alive by dumping a single into right. He also lined out hard to third with two on and two out in the sixth.
— Missing Salvador Perez. OK, so maybe at least two of Ventura’s three wild pitches in the fifth inning deserved to be wild pitches, but one pitch never hit the ground. And yes, at 98 mph, it’s hard to grab a fastball on the outside when you set up inside. But catcher Brett Hayes, filling in for the injured Perez, could have stopped some of the bleeding in Chicago’s three-run fifth. He missed a fastball that allowed Gordon Beckham to get to second. Beckham got to third on a groundout and then scored on a curve in the dirt from Ventura that Hayes couldn’t block.
In all, Ventura got tagged with three wild pitches. But with Perez behind the plate, he might not have had any. Maybe.
"Those were tough pitches to block," Ventura said through interpreter Bruce Chen. "I just tried to execute good pitches." Yost also defended Hayes, saying those pitches simply were too hard to keep in front of him.
— A rare "misplay." It’s not often that Gordon’s defense shows up in the "3 Down" category, but he did mishandle an Adam Eaton blooper in the fifth that allowed the White Sox to eventually take the lead. The play wasn’t routine; it’s just that Gordon often makes it look routine. Gordon came in on the play and went into a feet-first slide but dropped the ball. It was ruled a double.
— Crow’s bombs. The right-hander struggled so hard in the second half of 2013 that eventually he was benched, at least for any meaningful situations. Crow had a decent start this season, though he gave up too many inherited runners. Still, he didn’t have an ERA until Sunday, when he surrendered a three-run bomb to Adam Jones. That forced Yost to bring on closer Greg Holland to finish off an 8-6 win over Baltimore. On Tuesday, the Royals were trailing only 4-2 in the eighth until Crow gave up a three-run blast to Adam Dunn. That homer traveled 426 feet.
"The pitch Sunday to Jones wasn’t that bad a pitch," Crow said. "The one tonight wasn’t so good. I had been getting him out on sinkers in the past and I thought if I threw a fastball, he might swing underneath it."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at email@example.com.