That loud thud Friday night out on Interstate 70 just east of downtown had nothing to do with traffic. It was the Royals’ seven-game winning streak screeching to a halt in a 9-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium.
That’s right. Those wonderfully dreadful Mariners have moved on after helping the Royals to four morale-boosting victories. These were the first-place White Sox.
And, boy, there was a difference.
Brian Bannister matched zeroes for three innings with Chicago’s Mark Buehrle before hitting the wall in a 48-pitch fourth inning. That’s right — 48. The White Sox batted around and scored six times.
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All with two outs.
“I was one strike away,” Bannister said, “and all I did was keep throwing strikes. They just kept fouling them off. It was almost like they didn’t want to put it in play.”
When they did, they did it with maximum damage. Alexei Ramirez climaxed a nine-pitch at-bat by one-handing a changeup over the left-field wall for a grand slam. That came on Bannister’s 33rd pitch of the inning.
“The at-bat he put on was unbelievable,” Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen marveled. “He fouled off a lot of pitches. I think Bannister threw some pretty good pitches.”
Three more hits produced two more runs.
“I got gassed after the home run,” Bannister admitted. “My pitches started elevating.”
The six runs were one more than the Royals allowed in sweeping the Mariners. Ramirez’s slam was his third of the season, which tied the Major League record for a rookie. Shane Spencer had three in 1998 for the Yankees.
The White Sox got more muscle in the fifth.
Jim Thome became the all-time leader in homers against the Royals with a one-out blast for No. 42 among the 540 in his career. Rafael Palmeiro hits 41 against the Royals from 1986-2005.
Five of Thome’s 33 homers this season are against the Royals with the chance to add to his total when the series continues today and Sunday.
The White Sox also got two homers from DeWayne Wise — in the seventh against Robinson Tejeda and in the ninth against Devon Lowery. That makes 221 homers this season for Chicago, tops in the majors.
“Everyone knows they live by the home run,” Bannister said. “They’ve hit home runs all year long.”
The Royals got a little boom themselves when Mark Teahen hit a three-run shot in the fourth against Buehrle. Not much else though.
“We’ve been playing good ball,” Teahen said, “but they came up with a big home run early in the game. They kind of built off that. So we’ll just forget tonight and come back (today).”
Buehrle won his third straight decision in improving to 14-11. He allowed three runs and six hits in six innings before Matt Thornton, Octavio Dotel and Scott Linebrink closed out the victory.
The loss dropped the Royals to 69-85 and ended their longest winning streak since they opened the 2003 season at 9-0. They still have eight more games to reach 70 victories for just the second time in eight years.
The White Sox’s 11-hit attack included at least one from seven different starters. They extended their lead atop the American League Central Division to 2½ games over second-place Minnesota, which lost 11-1 at Tampa Bay.
Chicago heads to Minnesota for three games after Sunday’s series finale against the Royals.
The Royals got eight hits. Alberto Callaspo extended his hitting streak to a career-high 13 games with a leadoff double in the seventh. Mike Aviles, José Guillen and Teahen each had two hits.
Bannister was seeking his second straight victory after breaking a 13-start drought last Sunday in Cleveland. Instead, he dipped to 8-16 by giving up seven runs and eight hits in five innings.
“I didn’t think it was a matter of wearing down (in the fourth),” manager Trey Hillman said. “I just felt it was a matter of not being able to put it away and locate a good pitch. I still felt the ball was getting out of his hand well.”