Crow’s balk in ninth costs Royals

The Kansas City Royals’ latest loss left them perplexed — and a little ticked off.

Aaron Crow committed a game-ending balk and the Chicago White Sox beat Kansas City 5-4 on Monday night after the Royals had tied it on a homer first ruled a triple in the top of the ninth.

A.J. Pierzynski led off the bottom of the ninth with a pinch-hit single off Crow (2-2), advancing to second on Gordon Beckham’s sacrifice bunt, then to third on a wild pitch. After striking out Mark Teahen, Crow walked pinch-hitter Juan Pierre. With Adam Dunn up and facing a 1-0 count, Crow stepped off the mound and home plate umpire Ed Rapuano called a balk, giving Chicago the win.

”I just thought I stepped straight off the back of the mound,” said Crow, the rookie who was selected to his first All-Star game a day earlier. ”I tried to (get an explanation) but I couldn’t hear what (Rapuano) was saying.”

”It’s tough. At the same time, if I didn’t throw a wild pitch to let him get to third base, even if he did call a balk it wouldn’t cost us the game. I just have to keep out of those situations.”

Royals manager Ed Yost argued the call with Rapuano before heading back to the dugout.

”I don’t know how you can end a game like that,” Yost said. ”They seem to all be in agreement in the umpires’ room that it was a balk. I’ve watched the video 15 times. There was no intent to deceive any runners. He was stepping off. Maybe he turned his shoulder a little bit. I don’t know. I don’t know how you can step off and turn your shoulder. But he was standing here and then just kind of turned his shoulder, turned his head and stepped off. I don’t know.”

Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur was more adamant.

”I love Ed Rapuano and he’s one of my favorite (umpires), but you better be damn well sure if someone balks when you call a game on that,” Francoeur said. ”I understand if he drops the ball or blatantly moves, but he’s calling him for flinching when he’s stepping back off the mound — what the hell are you supposed to do? How are you supposed to step off? It’s a disappointing call.”

With the Royals trailing 4-3 in the ninth, Eric Hosmer led off with what appeared to be a homer off White Sox closer Sergio Santos (3-3). Second base umpire Alfonso Marquez signaled the ball was in play as Hosmer advanced to third. Yost contested the call, and the umpire reviewed it. Moments later, Marquez signaled home run.

Adam Dunn hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning off Crow to make it 4-3. Ramon Castro hit a solo shot in the fifth.

Dunn, who came in hitting .165, received a loud ovation from the 31,077 fans,  prompting a curtain call. It was his first home run since June 12 against Oakland and eighth overall. He also passed Joe DiMaggio on the career list, putting him at 77 with 362 career homers.

But Santos couldn’t hold the lead. It was his third blown save of the season.

Mark Buehrle allowed three runs on seven hits over seven innings for the White Sox, who began a stretch of 19 consecutive games against AL Central division rivals. Last season, Chicago finished 32-40 against AL Central opponents and are 7-11 against the division this season.

Jeff Francis allowed two runs over on seven hits over six innings. He struck out four without allowing a walk for the Royals, who have lost six of seven.

After scoring 16 runs in a win at Colorado on Sunday, the Royals’ offense got started early against Buehrle. Francoeur hit a two-run homer, his 12th in the first.

The Royals added to their lead against Buehrle in the third inning on Billy Butler’s RBI single.

Notes: Royals LF Alex Gordon, who left Sunday’s after getting hit by a pitch in the left knee, was available to pinch hit and was expected back in the lineup Wednesday. … Dunn snapped a 19-at-bat hitless streak with a single in the fourth, drawing a sarcastic ovation from the crowd. He fired back by removing his helmet and tipping it to the fans, recognizing the ovation.