KANSAS CITY, Mo. —It was Kyle Davies' turn Monday to try the new, more-aggressive, mix-it-up approach the Royals began preaching to the right-handed members of their rotation after the All-Star break.
And, no question, there were some encouraging results — despite a 5-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox that kept Davies winless in nine starts since April 13 and dropped the Royals to a season-worst 20 games under .500.
"I made better pitches," he said, "but I still need to make more of them. It just comes down to we've got to win a ballgame, and we didn't tonight."
Davies, 1-9, registered a career-high nine strikeouts, which matched Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino for the most this season by any Royals pitcher. Davies also allowed just two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings.
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It wasn't good enough largely because shortstop Alcides Escobar committed a costly error in the sixth on a potential inning-ending double play that led to two unearned runs.
Those two runs were the difference, although the White Sox added an insurance run in the eighth inning against Louis Coleman.
"Right now," manager Ned Yost said, "we're just not able to cover mistakes. You can make mistakes, and end up giving up a run or two, but you'd better be able to cover it offensively or cover it on the pitching side."
Chicago starter Mark Buehrle, 7-5, allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings, which enabled him to beat the Royals for the 22nd time in his career. Jesse Crain, Matt Thornton and Sergio Santos closed out the victory.
Buehrle's 22 victories against the Royals are the most of any active pitcher and trail only Bert Blyleven (34), Roger Clemens (25) and Nolan Ryan (24) on the all-time list.
"That's not bad of company to be in," Buehrle said, "but it shows you been around for long, you've stayed healthy and it's a team in your division — so you face them a lot of times."
The loss dropped the Royals to 38-58, which puts them on pace to finish 64-98 — or three games worse than last season. They are 18-41 since May 12.
The Royals recently decided the key to a resurgent second half is for their pitchers — particularly righty starters Luke Hochevar, Paulino and Davies — to become less predictable in their approach.
Specifically, they want all three to show increased willingness to pitch inside and a better mix of pitches with runners on base.
Hochevar responded last Friday by holding Minnesota to one run in seven innings. Paulino pitched well Sunday except for a hanging slider to Jim Thome that resulted in a three-run homer in a 4-3 loss to the Twins.
And, now, some positives from Davies.
"I was trying to pitch on both sides of the plate and not be so predictable," he said. "It was a little bit better, but it still needs to be (even) better."
It didn't start well for Davies when spray-hitting Juan Pierre lashed the game's second pitch into the right-field corner for a triple. Alexei Ramirez followed with a sacrifice fly to left for a 1-0 lead.
Davies went on a strikeout binge after getting Adam Dunn swinging for the final out in the first. Davies struck out the side in the second around a two-out single by A.J. Pierzynski and struck out the first two hitters in the third.
The White Sox then struck for another run when Ramirez punched a two-out single to right, and Paul Konerko followed with an RBI double into the left-center gap on a full-count pitch. Dunn walked, but Davies struck out Carlos Quentin.
That made seven straight outs on strikeouts but also pushed Davies' pitch count to 62 through three innings.
The Royals pulled even in the fifth after Escobar led off with a slicing single to right. He moved to second on a sacrifice by Chris Getz and to third on Mitch Maier's fly to deep center before scoring on Melky Cabrera's single through the left side.
Cabrera chose to admire the single for a moment before starting a slow jog to first after a bat flip. But there was no jog in Cabrera when Butler followed with a double to deep left; Cabrera scored from first without a throw.
Buehrle maintained the tie by getting a called third strike on Jeff Francoeur, which prompted some barking from Francoeur.
Replays suggested it was a borderline pitch, but C.B. Bucknor employed a generous strike zone all night and, generally, it benefited the Royals — as it did on another borderline called strike three on Alex Rios that started the Chicago sixth.
That was Davies' ninth strikeout, which established a career high. He followed that with a four-pitch walk to Pierzynski but should have been out of the inning by inducing a grounder to short from Gordon Beckham.
Escobar made, perhaps, his worst defensive play of the season by slinging an errant throw to second that Getz had no chance to make a play on. The result put runners on second and third with one out and finished Davies.
"That's just not a good throw," Escobar said. "I don't know... maybe I threw it from too low."
Lefty Everett Teaford got Teahen to hit soft grounder to first that scored the go-ahead run. Pierre followed with an RBI single to center for a 4-2 lead before Coleman replaced Teaford and got the inning's final out.
Ultimately, it was a disappointing turn for Davies in an otherwise encouraging performance.
"I'd like to see to see him a little more proficient inside with his fastball," Yost said. "There were times when he wasn't aggressive enough inside, or didn't command enough inside. That would have saved him pitches.
"All in all, I think it was a step forward for him."