CHICAGO — Charting the reasons for Royals lefty Bruce Chen’s recent success at U.S. Cellular Field, one thing stood out: His ability to keep the Chicago White Sox inside their cozy ballpark.
That didn’t happen Saturday in a 5-4 loss.
Chen served up homers to Dayan Viciedo, Tyler Flowers and Paul Konerko. Throw in a couple of doubles, and the White Sox got a lot of mileage from six hits in six innings against a nemesis that Ken Harrelson, their iconic broadcaster, often calls Cy Chen.
“I can’t say I fell behind in the count,” Chen said, “and that’s why I got in trouble. I felt like I was pounding the strike zone. I’ve just got to keep the ball down a little better.”
The law of averages comes into play here – and not just against Chen. Chicago hit three homers Friday night against Luis Mendoza, but the Royals countered with sufficient offense for a 7-5 victory.
“It’s been a rough week for our pitching staff, home run wise,” manager Ned Yost said. I think we’ve given up 16 homers in the last (six games). That’s a lot of homers. Bruce has given up seven (in his last two starts).
“It’s hard to say he’s throwing the ball (well), but he’s actually throwing the ball OK. It’s the homers that are hurting him. You can get away with mistakes sometimes, but he hasn’t gotten away with too many in the last two starts.”
Even so, the Royals made it interesting by scoring once in the eighth against Brett Myers and twice in the ninth against Addison Reed. But they left the tying run at second base. Those early homers left them too far gone to get all the way back.
“(Chen) seems to always to be pretty effective against us,” Flowers said. “He locates and doesn't make too many mistakes. I guess he made a few today.”
This is the way the White Sox play. Pending results elsewhere Saturday, their 181 homers are more than every team in either league except the Yankees, who entered the day with 207.
Chen had, pretty much, shackled that power in his five previous starts at The Cell. He was 4-0 in those five games while allowing only five earned runs over 33 2/3 innings. He also surrendered just three homers in that span.
Viciedo’s homer, with two outs in the first, opened the scoring. Flowers’ two-run drive came in the fourth and extended Chicago’s lead to 4-1. Konerko’s homer opened the sixth inning.
That was plenty for White Sox lefty Chis Sale, whose recent struggles started Aug. 17 in a 4-2 loss at Kauffman Stadium. He started the season at 14-3 but had lost three of his last four starts.
This was a tough Sale, whose side-arm delivery was enhanced by the shadows creeping across the infield for the unusual 3:05 p.m. start – an accommodation for Fox Sports, which showed the game to approximately 18 percent of the country.
“Sale is tough no matter what,” said left fielder Alex Gordon, who was hitless in four at-bats. “His stuff still didn’t look as crisp as it did in the beginning of the year, and I don’t think he was throwing as hard – but it was still pretty good.
“It was tough to see, but you’ve got to battle through that and find a way to get it done. But, yeah, it was tougher.”
Sale improved to 16-6 by yielding just one run in six innings. Jesse Crain worked a one-two-three seventh, but the Royals came alive in the eighth by using Myers, again, as a punching bag.
Johnny Giavotella led off with double and went to third on Lorenzo Cain’s single. Alcides Escobar then drove a double over Viciedo’s head in left. But the Royals got greedy and paid for it.
Cain tried to score from first with no outs and the middle of the order coming up – and was thrown out on a dart of a relay throw by shortstop Alexei Ramirez.
“It was a tough gamble,” Cain said. “That’s what we do – take chances sometimes. I was trying to be aggressive there. But they made a good relay and a good throw to home plate. If that throw is a few inches off, maybe I’m in there.
“That’s the risk you take sometimes.”
Chicago manager Robin Ventura had, by then, seen enough from Myers, who has yielded 10 runs and 15 hits (from 23 batters) to the Royals in just three innings over four appearances.
In came Matt Thornton, who quickly restored order by striking out Gordon and Billy Butler. Reed wobbled through a two-run ninth, allowing three straight two-out hits, before closing out the victory for his 26th save.
Chen (10-12) recorded his 1,000th career strikeout when Ramirez looked at a third strike for the second out in the first inning. Chen then yielded his 230th career homer on the next pitch, to Viciedo, before issuing his 484th career walk (Konerko).
The inning ended when Chen got strikeout No. 1,001 when Alex Rios went down swinging (and that finishes this episode of Mildly Illuminating Integers).
The Royals answered in the third after Cain grounded a one-out single through the left side, and Escobar worked back from an 0-2 count for a walk in a 10-pitch battle.
Gordon took a third strike on a full count, but Butler short-hopped a single to right. Cain scored by sliding around Flowers’ tag after Rios made a strong throw to the plate.
The ball beat Cain, but umpire Mark Carlson, well positioned, ruled Cain was safe. That brought a brief argument from Ventura – and then a pointed beef from the bench by bench coach Mark Parent.
Too pointed, apparently. Carlson ejected Parent. All that really mattered was the game was tied. Not for long, though.
Gordon Beckham opened the Chicago third with a double off the top of the left-field wall. Ramirez yanked a one-out double past third for a 2-1 lead.
The White Sox pushed their lead to 4-1 in the fourth on Flowers’ homer, which followed A.J. Pierzynski’s infield single.
Sale was different pitcher once he had the lead again. He rolled through the fourth, fifth and sixth in order with four three strikeouts and four routine grounders.
Konerko’s leadoff homer in the sixth bumped the lead to 5-1.