KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This was bound to happen sooner or later: The Royals’ offense finally rose up, but for once, a Royals starter couldn’t hang onto a lead.
Staked to a 5-0 first-inning lead, left-hander Jason Vargas simply didn’t have it. He gave up three homers, the last of which was a two-run bomb to center by Paul Konerko that ended Vargas’ night in the fifth. That homer put the White Sox up 7-6, and oddly, that score stood.
"I wouldn’t have thought everyone was done scoring after that," Billy Butler said afterward.
The Royals did a have shot in the ninth when Nori Aoki led off with a single. Jarrod Dyson pinch ran and made it to second when Alcides Escobar’s sacrifice bunt was booted by closer Matt Lindstrom for an error. Lindstrom also hurt his leg on the play and had to leave the game.
"I was feeling pretty good about our chances," manager Ned Yost said. "… We had our two best base runners on and Hoz (Eric Hosmer) and Billy coming up."
But Hosmer struck out. Then disaster struck as Dyson got caught heading for third on a steal attempt when right-hander Jake Petricka picked him off.
Yost said the pickoff move wasn’t anything special. "Just an inside move," Yost said. "Dys(on) just got caught starting early."
With two out, Butler then grounded out, ending the game.
— Making his Gold Glove bid. Center fielder Lorenzo Cain had a good night that started with a two-run single in the Royals’ first. He then made the defensive play of the game in the sixth inning when the White Sox had a runner on second and one out and already were leading 7-6. Marcus Semien came up and scorched a liner toward the gap in right-center. Cain raced over and with a full dive, made an incredible catch. That saved a run and shut off what could have been a big inning.
— Billy Ball is back … well, sort of. Butler had three more hits — his second straight three-hit day. He almost had a fourth. Leading off the seventh, Butler hit a one-hopper back to the mound that skipped away from the pitcher. Shortstop Alexei Ramirez hustled in, grabbed the ball and threw to first to nip Butler, who hustled so hard he wound up tripping over the bag and wiping out. Butler, though, did ground out to end the game with the tying run on second.
— Hosmer joins the hit party … well, sort of. Hosmer, relatively quiet recently, belted a two-run double in the first to start the scoring. The ball was one of the hardest-hit balls by Hosmer all year, a rocket that nearly knocked the right-field fence over. Hosmer also contributed an RBI single in the fourth. Hosmer did, however, strike out in the bottom of the ninth on a pitch well out of the zone with runners on first and second and none out. Hoz needed to get the runners to second and third somehow but failed.
— Vargy didn’t pitch great this time. The joke, of course, was that we’d all have to ask Mike Moustakas how Jason Vargas pitched Monday. After Vargy’s last start, Moose answered virtually every postgame question with "Vargy pitched a great game …" as a possible protest to all the stories that suggested Moose might be sent to the minors earlier that day. This time, there were no such comments because Vargy was just not himself. Staked to a 5-0 lead, Vargy never had his command and surrendered three home runs among the eight hits off him.
A shame to waste all that good offense, and Vargy knew it. "I usually don’t get mad too much but to have a 5-0 lead and not be able to hold it," Vargas said, "that’s just … I have to be better than that."
— Of course, Dyson’s mess-up. The pickoff/caught stealing of Dyson in the ninth was just inexcusable. Representing the tying run, Dyson has to be sure he has the pitcher’s move down before he decides to take off.
— Sal’s bad at-bat. Again, we don’t want to harp on the offense because six runs should be plenty enough to win, especially considering this team is built for pitching and defense. But in the second inning, White Sox starter Scott Carroll walked two hitters and gave up a single, loading the bases for Sal Perez. Carroll obviously was struggling with his command and maybe was just a pitch or two away from being taken out. But Perez gave Carroll a lifeline by swinging at the very first pitch he saw and grounding out.
Perez, by the way, probably should have been resting all night anyway. He left the game after the seventh because of a jammed right hand that he had suffered a couple of days earlier. The injury got worse after his last at-bat Monday. Perez had X-rays after the game; they were negative and he is expected to miss two or so games.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.