This loss Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium was notable for the Royals in that it put their season mathematically on the brink.
Specifically, this 3-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox left the Royals one loss away from a 17th losing season in 18 years and one loss (or one White Sox victory) away from officially extending their postseason absence to 27 years.
All with 15 games still remaining.
The particulars: Royals starter Luke Hochevar, 8-14, surrendered three home runs all with the bases empty, all on fastballs officially clocked at 91 mph. Alex Rios delivered the decisive blow by ambushing a 3-0 offering with one out in the seventh inning.
A lot of those guys, especially big home run guys, get the green light 3-0, Hochevar said. I kind of had a gut feeling that he was going to (be swinging) so I tried to step on the gas a little. The ball just came up, and he whacked it.
The Royals, for their part, nicked Chicago starter Gavin Floyd, 10-10, for two runs in the first but little else in his seven innings before Matt Thornton and Addison Reed closed out the victory.
Reed got the final two outs for his 28th save in 32 chances.
Honestly, (Floyd) had better stuff than weve seen in the past, said designated hitter Billy Butler, whose two-run single in the first inning provided the Royals with their only production.
I know hed been on the DL for a little while, but hes throwing harder tonight than weve seen from him. His slider was harder. He was throwing it 86-88 (mph). It looked like a fastball coming out of his hand, and it broke late.
This was Floyds second start since returning from a 16-stay on the disabled list because of a strained flexor in his right elbow.
I know theyre aggressive, he said, but Im trying to make my pitch. Most of the time, that will get the guys out. I try to not worry about (the Royals aggressive approach) and make pitches.
Say this: Floyd didnt appear worried.
Anyway, heres the math: The Royals are 66-81 and 15 games behind first-place Chicago, 81-66, with those 15 games to go. If the Royals win out, and the White Sox lose out and second-place Detroit, 78-69, goes no better than 3-12 then well, hey!
Otherwise, the Royals carry those streaks into 2013.
The White Sox missed a chance for tack-on runs with two outs and none on in the eighth after relievers Tim Collins and Louis Coleman lost the strike zone. Collins walked Adam Dunn before Coleman loaded the bases by walking Paul Konerko and Rios.
In came Francisley Bueno for a left-on-left matchup against A.J. Pierzynski, who grounded into a force at third.
Turned out, it didnt matter.
The White Sox grabbed a quick 1-0 lead when Alejandro De Aza yanked Hochevars second pitch of the game into the right-field bullpen.
I was trying to go belt in, Hochevar said. I got it in there, but he put a good swing on it.
The Royals answered with two runs in their first after David Lough led off with a walk and went to third on Alex Gordons one-out double his major-league-leading 48th double of the season.
Those 48 doubles are the third-highest total in franchise history: Hal McRae had 54 in 1982; Butler had 51 in 2009.
Butler followed with a two-run single to right. Gordon got a great read on the bloop along the line and nearly ran up Loughs back in scoring the go-ahead run.
Those two RBIs pushed Butlers season total to a career-best 97. No Royals player has reached triple figures since Carlos Beltran had 100 in 2003.
That was pretty much it, offensively, for the Royals.
Hochevar retired 10 in a row after De Azas homer with a big assist from Lough, who took extra bases away from Dewayne Wise to start the third inning probably a triple; possibly an inside-the-park homer with a diving catch in the right-center gap.
The streak ended when second baseman Tony Abreu, playing in short right field, whiffed on Dunns one-out grounder in the fourth. The result was a two-base error that forced Hochevar, for the first time, to pitch from the stretch.
But Hochevar struck out Paul Konerko and retired Rios on a fly to deep left.
The Royals got a two-out double in their fourth from Jeff Francoeur on a drive that died at the left-field wall. Francoeur appeared to believe it was out, but the ball hit off the top of the wall. Floyd escaped the inning by retiring Eric Hosmer on a liner to left.
Hochevar benefited from more outfield defense in the fifth when Pierzynski led off with a liner down the left-field line. Gordon played the hop perfectly and made a strong throw to second that retired Pierzynski for his 13th outfield assist.
There was no defense for Gordon Beckhams leadoff homer in the sixth, which pulled the White Sox even at 2-2. He jumped a 1-0 fastball and sent it over the left-field wall.
Rios delivered his game-winner by rocking a 3-0 fastball high and deep to left with one out in the seventh. It hooked but not enough for Hochevar and the Royals.