KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This make-a-push-in-August campaign is new hereabouts, so it’s possible the Royals don’t have all the details locked down. This much, though, should be obvious:
Losing two straight at home to the American League’s worst team (unless you want to count the National League-castoff Astros) is not the optimum approach.
But here sit the Royals, looking like they’ve regressed to their punchless May swoon, after Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium.
“I don’t see guys pressing,” outfielder Jarrod Dyson said. “I just see guys getting really mad when they don’t get the job done. There’s nobody up there pressing, I don’t think.
“Everybody’s got experience in this game. You’ve got to stay focused in this game. If you press, you might as well go home.”
Getting guys home is the problem. More on that in a moment.
The game turned on Dayan Viciedo’s grand slam, which capped a five-run fourth inning against Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie. It was all the White Sox got but more than they needed.
“They were able to get the bat on a couple of pitches before the grand slam,” Guthrie said. “And the grand slam wasn’t a well-executed pitch. So I just dug myself into a hole, and they got all of those runs.”
Yep, it was that simple.
This makes seven losses in nine games for the Royals, including four in a row — the last two at home to the White Sox, who are tracking, despite a recent uptick, for their first last-place finish since 1989.
(Remember 1989? Bret Saberhagen won his second Cy Young Award.)
“You just keep grinding through it,” manager Ned Yost said. “Again, the majority of our problems are offensively … and you just keep grinding it because you never know when you’re going to break out of it.”
Chicago rookie Andre Rienzo, a native Brazilian right-hander in his fifth start, collected his first big-league victory by holding the Royals’ spluttering attack to two runs and five hits over six innings.
“It means a lot for me and the country,” he said, “to show the world Brazil has baseball, not just soccer.”
The White Sox used four relievers behind Rienzo (1-0) to close out their victory. Addison Reed pitched the ninth for his 33rd save.
Oh, and another ball disappeared into a revolving advertising sign behind the plate. That’s twice in two days. For those who believe in omens, draw your own conclusions.
About that flat-lining attack: The Royals collected just six hits, including just one in 10 chances with runners in scoring position. That makes nine for 76 with runners in scoring position over this 2-7 skid.
“We’re just not getting hits with runners in scoring position,” designated hitter Billy Butler said. “I know I’m not. We’ve not played well. There’s no rhyme or reason for it.
“It’s just 162 games, and this is a rough stretch. We’ve gone through a good stretch, a rough stretch, a good stretch.… There are ups and downs.”
Seems a lot like that 4-19 tumble through May, doesn’t it?
These two losses come at the start of a stretch when the Royals (64-61) play 16 of 17 games against clubs with losing records. They are now 9 1/2 games behind first-place Detroit in the AL Central Division.
The wild-card math, which might now be all that matters, is somewhat better: The Royals remain 61/2 games behind Oakland for the final postseason slot, but there are three clubs between the Royals and A’s.
Guthrie (12-10) pitched well over his six innings except for that five-run fourth, which is sort of like landing a plane safely all but one time. He gave up nine hits while striking out two and walking none.
It’s no small thing the last two losses occurred in games started by two of the Royals’ big three: Ervin Santana and Guthrie. They look to avoid a sweep Thursday night behind top gun James Shields.
“When you’re not getting guys in,” Dyson said, “you make it a little tougher on your pitcher. Our pitchers have done a great job of keeping us in these ballgames. We’ve got to clean it up on offense.”
Chicago started the decisive fourth with a leadoff double by Alexei Ramirez that sailed over the head of left fielder Alex Gordon. Adam Dunn followed by lining an RBI single into center for a 1-0 lead.
Dunn went to second on Paul Konerko’s single up the middle. After Avasail Garcia popped to first, Conor Gillaspie grounded a single to right that loaded the bases.
Viciedo then crushed his grand slam over the left-center wall for a 5-0 lead.
“He does have a tendency to swing at balls out of the strike zone,” Chicago manager Robin Ventura said. “But you see him hit the ball up the middle, the grand slam, hits one to right, that’s hitting pretty good.”
At that point, the Royals didn’t have a hit, but they opened the bottom of the inning with singles by Butler and Gordon. The runners went to second and third on Salvy Perez’s fly to center.
The White Sox believed Butler left second prior to the catch, but the umpires rejected the appeal. Replays suggested the Sox had a beef — and the play turned into a run when Mike Moustakas delivered a sacrifice fly.
The Royals clawed back to 5-2 in their sixth on David Lough’s two-out RBI single. That was it, though.
The disappearing ball trick occurred, this time, in the Chicago third after Viciedo led off with a single. With one out, Guthrie bounced a wild pitch past Perez that went into a revolving sign.
The scoring is a wild pitch and dead ball; Viciedo took second but got no farther. Guthrie retired the next two hitters.
“They’re going to need to replace that thing,” Yost said.
A few other things need fixing, too.