KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Well, this was a little more like what Royals manager Ned Yost had in mind after calling a team meeting prior to Tuesday's game against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium.
For the most part, anyway.
The Royals rallied for a 4-2 victory by overcoming a shaky first inning by rookie left-hander Danny Duffy and a comical base-running blunder that seemed pulled through time from, say, 2005.
"What Ned had to say was what a lot of people have been thinking," said catcher Matt Treanor, whose two-run single gave the Royals a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning. "It's definitely been on a lot of people's minds.
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"When you compare this team to last year's team, for us to feel like we've gotten better... it's hard to justify that. Learning is learning, but when we get out there on the field, we've got to get it done.
"Tonight was a good example of the way we should and need to play."
Duffy (2-4) allowed nothing beyond a two-run first before exiting after the seventh. He permitted just five hits while striking out six and walking two. More encouraging, he turned efficient after a 27-pitch first by finishing at 94 in seven innings.
"I was like, 'Here, hit it,' " Duffy said. "Doug Henry (the pitching coach) in Omaha always tells me, 'Your stuff is good enough to just throw it. You don't have to bite and nibble. After the first, I was just in that mind-set."
The bullpen took it from there.
Greg Holland pitched a scoreless eighth before Joakim Soria closed out the victory for his 17th save. Soria is perfect in 10 saves opportunities since reclaiming his job in early June.
The Royals, despite wasting some scoring chances, still did enough in nicking Chicago starter Jake Peavy (4-4) for three runs and seven hits in six innings. Treanor's two-run single in the sixth came after an intentional walk to Eric Hosmer that loaded the bases.
"I know Treanor," Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said. "He's married to the volleyball girl. If that situation comes up again, he's going to (have to) beat me again. I got first base open, and I went to the mound.
"Pitcher on the mound was a veteran pitcher. I agree with what we did, things just didn't go our way."
Melky Cabrera provided an insurance run with a two-out homer in the seventh against reliever Chris Sale. It was Cabrera's 12th homer of the season, which leaves him just one shy of his career high set in 2009 with the Yankees.
The Royals held their closed-door meeting after dropping to 20 games under .500, at 38-58, by losing four of five since returning from the All-Star break.
"You can't have meetings every day," Yost said. "You can't have meetings every week. It just doesn't work. The gist of the meeting was we're 20 games under .500, and that's totally unacceptable. We've got to find a way to change that as a team."
It sure didn't pay quick dividends.
Duffy worked himself immediate trouble in the first inning by hitting Juan Pierre with an 0-2 fastball and walking Alexei Ramirez on four pitches.
Paul Konerko struck out, but Carlos Quentin rammed a single into center with the runners moving that scored Pierre and moved Ramirez to third. Alex Rios followed with a single to deep short for a 2-0 lead.
The Royals put runners on second and third with no outs in the second but settled for just one run. Then came the third, when they ran themselves out of a chance to tie — or more — after Alex Gordon led off with a single and Cabrera reached on an error.
After Billy Butler struck out, the Royals started the runners on a pitch to Jeff Francoeur. And, oh boy, the only things missing were a calliope and clowns on bicycles.
Gordon broke for third but stopped, while Cabrera broke for second and kept going. The result, easily pictured, was two runners arriving at second from different directions. Gordon eventually took off for third, and the White Sox trapped him in a rundown.
Cabrera inexplicably retreated to first, which meant the Royals went from first and second with one out to a runner on first with two outs.
"We know one mistake has been killing us," Yost said, "and you get to be a little cautious. That's what happened to Gordo right there."
But the Royals rallied from there.
They ended the Chicago fifth by turning a crisp third-second-first double play that included sparkling handles by Mike Moustakas and Chris Getz. The Royals then took the lead by striking for two runs in the sixth.
Butler punched a one-out single to right and chugged to third when Francoeur yanked a double into the left-field corner. That prompted an intentional walk to Hosmer before Treanor drilled a two-run single into center.
"It's never a compliment when they walk someone to get to you," Treanor said. "For the most part, I just tried to stay centered mentally and get a pitch to hit. I didn't try to do too much and was able to put it over the second baseman's head."