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Royals blow huge lead against Chicago

  • Kansas City Star
  • Published Monday, May 19, 2014, at 10:43 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, May 21, 2014, at 12:58 a.m.

— A pair of rarities intertwined in a painful, 7-6 Royals loss to the White Sox on Monday night.

The first anomaly occurred in the first inning when the team’s offense, moribund for so much of this season, gifted starter Jason Vargas a five-run lead. The second anomaly was far more debilitating: Vargas gave it back.

The most crushing blow was the last one. It fell in the fifth inning, when Vargas yielded a two-run shot to Chicago veteran Paul Konerko. His bomb was the third of the game for the White Sox, the most Vargas had ever before allowed in his 10 starts as a Royal. He tied a season high with seven runs allowed, too.

After Konerko’s homer fell, manager Ned Yost arrived to fetch Vargas. He was one batter too late. Thus the final series of this nine-game homestand began on an ugly note. The Royals (22-22) have two more nights atone before flying to Anaheim on Thursday.

In the opening frame, the Royals punished a local product. Last month Chicago promoted right-hander Scott Carroll, a 29-year-old from Liberty. For Carroll, Monday marked his fifth big-league start. At the start, it looked like his worst.

The elements of the onslaught included a few well-placed singles, a rocket off the bat of Eric Hosmer and a few examples of Chicago’s defensive incompetence. The last component appeared prominently from the start: After a leadoff single by Nori Aoki, Alcides Escobar chopped a grounder toward second baseman Gordon Beckham.

The ball bounced as Beckham approached. A chance for at least a force at second vanished as the ball slipped between Beckham’s legs. Escobar received credit for a hit.

The next batter was Hosmer. He carried a 2-for-24 slump to the plate. His fortunes reversed on a 91-mph fastball from Carroll. Hosmer scorched a double off the right-field fence to bring both runners home.

Hosmer soon joined them. Billy Butler delivered his third first-inning RBI single in as many days. This one benefited from the White Sox’s positioning. He grounded toward the usual position of shortstop Alexi Ramirez. But with Ramirez shaded toward third base, the ball shot into the outfield.

The Royals proceeded to test the arm of outfielder Adam Eaton. Following a walk by Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez floated a fly ball to center field. Butler tagged up from second, and appeared in danger. But Eaton skipped the throw and third baseman Marcus Semien couldn’t corral it.

Now two runners were in scoring position for Lorenzo Cain. He chopped a single up the middle. As Gordon rounded third, Eaton flung an off-line throw past the cutoff man and wide of the plate. The five runs were in the books.

The team entrusted the advantage to Vargas. Through his first nine starts as a Royal, he appears exactly as predicted.

"We had a pretty good idea what we were getting in Jason Vargas," manager Ned Yost said. "A veteran pitcher that commands the ball. That is an innings eater. And a guy that’s a real competitor. And he’s been all of that."

He is also prone to home runs. The White Sox blasted their way back into this game in the third and the fourth.

Alexi Ramirez jumped on a belt-high changeup and deposited a three-run shot into the Royals bullpen in the third. The next frame, Dayan Viciedo led off with a homer that nestled into the same location of the park.

Hosmer widened the gap in the bottom of the frame. Much of the credit belongs to Escobar: He singled and stole his 12th base of the season. Hosmer followed by slapping an RBI single into right.

Then came the fifth. The White Sox batted aside Vargas, and grabbed the lead.

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