CHICAGO — The problem with throwing fire, a favored phrase of Royals rookie Yordano Ventura, is in the big leagues, you can get burned.
So maybe Saturday provided a good lesson for Ventura, an unquestioned talent, to take into the off-season. He was singed for three homers in four innings in a 6-5 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
“I was not surprised,” Ventura said in using teammate Ervin Santana as an interpreter. “Here, the hitters are very good. They make an adjustment and, if you leave the ball up, it’s going to go.”
Perhaps that lesson is already sinking in.
The first two homers came back-to-back in the second inning when Ventura was throwing fire: Marcus Semien turned around a 96-mph cut fastball, and Jordan Danks followed by tagged a 98-mph two-seam fastball.
“I felt good,” Ventura said, “and I did the most I could. I didn’t have the best command today.”
Adam Dunn’s two-run homer in the third came on a change-up when Ventura fell into a 3-1 hole. Four runs on three homers, and all three were, ah, torched.
“He wasn’t as sharp as he has been,” manager Ned Yost said. “A lot of homers. The ball was flying, but he just wasn’t quite as sharp. It happens.”
The Royals flashed some muscle of their own in a comeback that fell short against Erik Johnson, 3-2, and the Chicago bullpen.
Johnson had a no-hitter until Mike Moustakas hit a one-out homer in the fifth, and Billy Butler rocked a two-run homer in the sixth.
“This is a good park to hit in if you get the ball in the air,” Butler said. “Definitely in the (American League) Central, it’s the best park to hit in. You get the ball in the air, and you hit it good, it’s going to go out.”
But the White Sox blunted the comeback when Conor Gillaspie greeted Tim Collins with a first-pitch homer in the seventh inning. Collins replaced Louis Coleman after a one-out walk to Gordon Beckham.
The move, on paper, made sense.
“Left on left,” Yost said. “Look at the numbers. Gillaspie is hitting one-something against lefties (.153), and Timmy has been really good out of the pen for us.
“The pitch wasn’t horrible. The pitch was down. He tried to hit the corner, and it came back toward the middle of the plate.”
Gillaspie pulled it down the right-field line with just enough carry for a two-run shot that allowed the White Sox to withstand Salvy Perez’s two-run homer in the eighth against Matt Lindstrom.
Donnie Veal, Nate Jones and Addison Reed held on for the victory.
Reed pitched around a two-out walk to Alex Gordon in the ninth for his 40th save in 48 chances. Pinch-runner Chris Getz reached second on a steal, but Reed ended the game by striking out Emilio Bonifacio.
The loss dropped the Royals to 85-76 with one game remaining, while Chicago, 63-98, ensured itself of avoiding a 100-loss season.
“Nobody wants 100 losses,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “But it’s not going to make me feel any better to have 99.”
Yordano Ventura, 0-1, worked 5 2/3 innings in each of his first two starts, allowed one run in each, and handed leads to the bullpen. Both times, he ended with a no-decision.
This time, he handed off a 4-0 deficit, and got the loss when the Royals’ couldn’t bridge the deficit.
The White Sox opened the scoring with those two fire-resistant bombs in the second inning. Semien sent a 392-foot drive to left, and Danks followed with a 403-foot jolt over the left-center wall.
The Royals didn’t get their first runner until Jarrod Dyson drew a two-out walk in the third inning. Dyson moved into scoring position by stealing second, but Jackson retired Gordon on a fly to center.
Chicago doubled its lead to 4-0 on Dunn’s two-out homer in the third inning, a 406-foot drive to center, after Beckham’s leadoff single.
The Royals’ bullpen stirred to action when Ventura opened the fourth inning by yielding a leadoff double to Semien. But Ventura struck out Danks and should have had another out on Miguel Gonzalez’s grounder to third.
But Moustakas buried a throw that got past first baseman Eric Hosmer for an error that put runners at second and third with one out.
Ventura steadied and showed poise in pitching around the threat by striking out Leury Garcia and retiring Beckham on a grounder to third (no problem this time on Moustakas’ throw).
Moustakas then delivered the Royals’ first hit on a one-out homer in the fifth — a 411-foot drive to right field. David Lough followed with a single, and Dyson worked a two-out walk, but Jackson struck out Gordon.
The Royals pulled closer in the sixth after Hosmer rammed a one-out single through the left side for a single that should ensure he finishes the season at .300 or better.
Butler tagged Jackson’s next pitch for a 402-foot homer to left. That quickly, the Royals were back to within 4-3. Perez followed with a single.
When Jackson then walked Moustakas, the White Sox went to the bullpen for Charlie Leesman to get a left-on-left matchup with Lough. That worked; Lough took a third strike.
Chicago then replaced Leesman with right-hander Daniel Webb, who struck out Alcides Escobar.