KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If things don’t turn around in a hurry, that postseason talk the Royals stirred up with their post-break surge might soon be less relevant than the ravings of a self-obsessed windbag.
Tuesday’s series opener against the Chicago White Sox marked the start of a stretch in which the Royals play 16 of 17 games against clubs with losing records.
And it didn’t go well.
The Royals lost 2-0 when they failed to solve White Sox lefty John Danks, who was winless with five losses in eight previous starts. Addison Reed completed the eight-hit shutout.
“Just a bad game,” left fielder Alex Gordon said. “Bottom line: We didn’t play well. We made a lot of mistakes.”
This makes three straight losses for the Royals since their uplifting doubleheader sweep Friday in Detroit. It also makes six losses in their last eight games.
“We’re not where we want to be in these last few series,” second baseman Chris Getz said. “Tonight, Danks pitched a good game. We didn’t really get much going at all.”
This latest loss dropped the Royals (64-60) to seven games behind Oakland, pending the outcome of the A’s game late Tuesday, in the race for the final American League wild-card berth.
It’s also worth noting that three other teams sit between the Royals and the A’s. Further, the Royals remain 81/2 games behind first-place Detroit in the AL Central. All with 38 games remaining.
“They’re a little frustrated with themselves offensively,” manager Ned Yost said. “Pitching was good enough for us to win tonight. Defense was good enough for us to win. But offensively, it wasn’t.”
Worse, the Royals looked bad in losing.
Right fielder Justin Maxwell threw home with a runner at second in the second inning. Getz appeared to get a late read on Jamey Carroll fly to center when breaking from first in the third inning.
And Getz, after a leadoff single in the eighth, got picked off flat-footed by Danks on a throw that might have been a balk.
“He put a good move on me,” Getz said. “I was trying to make something happen. We had something going there, and he caught me flat-footed. It was not any more complicated than that.”
There was also a bit of bad luck when a Santana pitch got past catcher Salvy Perez for a passed ball with runners at first and third in the second inning — and hopped through an advertising board behind the plate.
That permitted Paul Konerko, who didn’t break on the pitch, to walk in from third with the game’s second, and final, run. A quick canvass of several players revealed none who had seen such a thing happen before.
“First time,” Royals pitcher Ervin Santana said. “Against who? Me! Lucky me.”
The bigger issue is the Royals’ attack is again flat-lining with 16 runs over their last eight games while getting just eight hits in 66 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
“It’s a tough stretch,” Gordon said, “but before we went on that good (19-5) run, we went through a tough (0-5) stretch, too. We’ll come back here with a little more energy, hopefully, (on Wednesday).”
Danks (3-10) scattered seven hits while throwing 100 pitches in eight innings. He walked one, struck out two and permitted just two runners to get as far as second base.
“He did his job,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He got us to Reed, and Reed closed it out. It was a great job by him. His command was as good as it's been all year.”
Reed pitched around a leadoff single by Billy Butler in the ninth for his 32nd save in 37 chances. Danks improved to 6-0 in 13 career starts against the Royals; he is 54-70 against everyone else.
“I caught a couple of breaks,” he said. “(I) was able to throw the ball over the plate, and luckily we scored enough. I made a couple of pitches I got away with it.”
Santana (8-7) battled through a rising count through the early inning — 87 pitches through four innings — but he hung on through the sixth before exiting, after 111 pitches. He permitted just four hits and one earned run.
The White Sox struck early when Gordon Beckham turned on a 1-1 slider for a one-out homer in the first inning. He sent a 393-foot drive over the left-field wall for a 1-0 lead.
Santana found more trouble in the second after Konerko led off with a double past third. Konerko went to third when Avasail Garcia served a soft single into center.
Then it got strange.
Perez whiffed on a pitch to Conor Gillaspie, and the ball hopped into through an advertising board behind the plate. The official scoring was a dead ball and one base to all runners. Chicago led 2-0.
“I didn’t know where the ball went,” Perez said. “That was too fast. I still don’t know where the ball went.”
Santana was also puzzled.
“I was looking at Salvy,” he said, “who was looking at me. I was like, `Where’s the ball?’ He was like, `I don’t know.’”
Gillaspie then flied to right and, inexplicably, Maxwell threw home. Garcia chose to stay at second anyway — but then broke for third on Dayan Viciedo’s grounder to short. That turned into the second out.
Santana ended the inning with no further damage. Not that it mattered. Two runs were one more than enough.