CHICAGO | Here it was Tuesday on Opening Day for the Royals. Not perfect but, still, pretty much the way they want things to work. A lead in the late innings for their veteran set-up corps to bridge to All-Star closer Joakim Soria.
It couldn’t have turned out much worse.
Jim Thome clocked a three-run homer with two outs in the eighth inning against Kyle Farnsworth. So the Royals never got to Soria. They instead limped out of U.S. Cellular Field with a numbing 4-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
“It’s definitely tough,” left fielder David DeJesus said. “That’s the situation we wanted. In the eighth inning, we get Kyle in there. Then get Soria in the ninth. That’s what it was looking like”
Thome is an old nemesis. His homer was the 43rd in his career against the Royals, the most by any opponent in the franchise’s 41-year history.
And there was nothing cheap about it.
Thome sent a 2-1 offering from Farnsworth into the seats just to the left of straightaway center field. That quickly, seven superb innings from Gil Meche collapsed into a no-decision.
“Meche was throwing a nice ballgame,” Thome said, “but Farnsworth is a top-quality reliever. So we knew we had our hands full. But we battled, and when you get a ball in the middle of the plate, especially on a guy like Farnsworth, you’ve got to capitalize on it.”
Oh, Thome capitalized.
“I got behind him 2-0,” Farnsworth said, “and I tried to come back on him with fastballs. That one was up a little bit. That’s why you try to get ahead of him. You fall behind good hitters like that, they’ll make you pay.”
Bobby Jenks closed out the victory for Chicago by pitching around DeJesus’ one-out single in the ninth. Ex-Royal Octavio Dotel got the victory.
Farnsworth was the loser.
“I saw a lot of good things today,” manager Trey Hillman said, “but the way it endedsure, you hope that you can hold onto a one-run lead. Professional hitter got a pitch that was left over the plate a little too much. “It’s a matter of location, not necessarily the pitch or the velocity. It’s just where he left it.”
Meche allowed one run and seven hits while striking out six and walking none. He threw 62 strikes in 91 pitches. Six of the seven Chicago hits against Meche were singles.
“I felt good enough to go back out,” he said. “I told (Hillman) that, but we’ve got some guys down there who have done it before. We just fell short today.”
Josh Fields opened the eighth with a bunt single against Farnsworth. Dewayne Wise flied to center after failing twice to execute a sacrifice bunt, but Chris Getz flicked a hit-and-run single to right that sent Fields to third.
“Josh Fields’ bunt opened the door for a good inning,” Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said. “That allowed us to get the big boys to the plate.”
Farnsworth struck out the first big boy, Carlos Quentin, before Thome came to the plate. Thome’s career slugging percentage is 198 points higher against righties than lefties. Also, Farnsworth allowed 15 homers last season in 60 1/3 innings.
But Hillman chose to stick with Farnsworth over lefty Ron Mahay, who had been warming in the bullpen with Juan Cruz.
“As soon as (Farnsworth) struck Quentin out,” Hillman said, “I sat Mahay down because I was planning, if Kyle was throwing strikes, to leave him in. Ronnie has never been a left-handed specialistIt was just a matter of location.”
The location turned out to be 400 feet away from the plate. It was Thome’s 542nd career homer, which ranks 14th on baseball’s all-time list.
“He’s a veteran player,” Guillen said. “You know he’s not going to panic with the game on the line.” The Royals never trailed until that point.
Alex Gordon’s one-out homer in the second inning, a 418-foot drive to dead center field, provided the game’s first run against Chicago starter Mark Buehrle, who battled through five shaky innings.
Miguel Olivo followed with a double past first, but Mike Aviles struck out, and Coco Crisp flied to left. It was the first of too many missed opportunities. The Royals were one for 12 with runners in scoring position.
The White Sox pulled even by bunching four singles in their second, but Gordon’s fielder’s-choice grounder with the bases loaded in the fifth produced another run. It stayed 2-1 until the eighth.
“You want to get off to a good start,” Farnsworth said. “So this (stinks). But you’ve just got to keep on going.”
To reach Bob Dutton, Royals reporter for The Star, call (816) 234-4352 or send email to email@example.com.