The Chicago White Sox might yet win the American League Central Division simply because they have no games remaining against the Royals.
Eric Hosmer grounded a two-out single past third base Thursday night in the ninth inning that enabled the Royals to heap more frustration on the White Sox with a 4-3 walk-off victory at Kauffman Stadium.
The way were playing, Jarrod Dyson chirped, I dont think any contending team wants to play us right now.
Dyson stole second as a pinch-runner in the ninth after replacing Billy Butler, who opened the inning with a single to center. Dyson stole second before romping home without a throw on Hosmers game-winning hit.
The White Sox can only hope the Royals inflict equal pain on second-place Detroit in seven meetings over the seasons final 10 games.
If we take care of business against Detroit, Butler said, those guys (the White Sox) have a good chance to be in the playoffs. If were playing the contenders this well, weve just got to figure out how to play the other teams like this.
Theres a reason why those teams are in that position and were not.
That answer probably revolves around finding two arms in the off-season and heading into next year with a revamped rotation. Because on this night, the Royals saw, again, what a reliable starter can do even without his best stuff.
Jeremy Guthrie wasnt sharp early but kept battling and limited the White Sox to three runs in six innings. Two runs were unearned but occurred because of his own throwing error in the second inning.
I dont think I ever really settled in tonight, he said. Really, each pitch felt like it was a struggle. Not many at-bats felt like I was in control. But I knew I had to make pitches and, hopefully, get some balls put in play.
Defensively, we did what we always do which is make the routine play as well as the special play to get out of some jams.
The Royals also got just enough offense in overcoming a 3-0 deficit to beat the White Sox for the ninth time in the last 11 games between the two teams. Chicago still holds a two-game lead over Detroit with 13 games remaining.
The victory allowed the Royals to put off their own elimination for at least one more day while tightening their grip on third place. They hold a 6½-game lead over Cleveland and Minnesota.
Butler tied the game with an RBI double in the seventh before opening the ninth with a line single into center against reliever Jesse Crain. In came Dyson, whose speed ramped up the tension.
Crain made several pick-off attempts, which kept Dyson close, before retiring Salvy Perez on a fly to right. Mike Moustakas struck out before Dyson stole second on the first pitch to Jeff Francoeur.
That prompted an intentional walk and a pitching change to get Matt Thornton to face Hosmer in a left-on-left matchup.
While Thornton came in from the bullpen, Dyson went back to first base to confer with coach Rusty Kuntz.
I told them, I had to earn that bag right there, Dyson said. And Frenchy told me, Well, now youve got to score. I said, Thats easier than stealing that bag. I told Rusty, Anything through, and Im hauling it. Im scoring no doubt.
That opportunity came when Hosmer, after falling into an 0-2 hole, rammed a grounder past third baseman Kevin Youkilis and the base.
I was getting beat all night on fastballs in with (Sox starter Francisco) Liriano, Hosmer said. So I figured (catcher) A.J. (Pierzynski) would go back in there. I just tried to shorten up, put it in play and let Dysons legs do something right there.
Dyson scored easily. Greg Holland, 7-4, got the victory after pitching a scoreless ninth. Crain, 2-3, was the loser.
Liriano breezed through the first four innings before surrendering two runs in the fifth on Johnny Giavotellas two-out triple. Liriano handed a 3-2 lead to reliever Nate Jones after Alex Gordons one-out single in the sixth.
Butler launched Jones first pitch, a 99-mph fastball, for a game-tying RBI double over the head of center fielder Dewayne Wise.
That shows we play in a ridiculous park, Butler said. I cant hit a ball better than that. The guy is throwing 99 miles an hour, and I hit it with my best bolt. Thats all Ive got. That was every bit of what Ive got.
That left both starters with no-decisions.
Francisley Bueno and Aaron Crow each worked one scoreless inning. Jones worked through the seventh and got two outs in the eighth before the White Sox called on Donnie Veal to face Gordon, who struck out on three pitches.
That got the game to the ninth.
The White Sox failed to score an earned run against Guthrie in three previous starts covering 23 2/3 innings but broke through in the first inning with three singles. Pierzynski sliced a two-out single into left for the run.
Guthrie ran into more trouble in the second inning after Dan Johnson worked a leadoff walk, and Alexei Ramirez followed with a broken-bat infield single to third.
Gordon Beckhams attempted sacrifice offered Guthrie, who pounced off the mound, the opportunity for an out at third. But Guthrie bobbled the ball and, after resetting himself, threw wildly to first.
Johnson scored from second, and the White Sox wound up with runners at second and third with no outs. The runners held on Alejandro De Azas grounder to first, but Wise hit a softer hopper to first that permitted both runners to advance.
Chicago led 3-0, which is how it stayed until Giavotella, Butler and, finally, Hosmer led the way back.
Were playing a tough schedule here at the end, Hosmer said, and we want to spoil some teams playoff hopes.