Let’s start with the good news: Royals right-hander Luis Mendoza finally, in his third attempt, won a pitcher’s duel Friday night against Chicago lefty Chris Sale.
Salvy Perez’s two-out, two-run double in the seventh inning provided Mendoza and the Royals with the winning margin in a 4-2 victory that opened a three-game weekend series at Kauffman Stadium.
“Every start, I feel stronger,” said Mendoza, who delivered a quality start for the seventh time in his last nine outings. “Every game, I try to figure out what I’m doing and make quality pitches.”
Now the bad news: Second baseman Chris Getz is out for the season after suffering a fractured left thumb on a bunt attempt in the fifth inning. He will undergo surgery today at KU Medical Center.
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The Royals are replacing Getz by recalling second baseman Johnny Giavotella, who is batting .323 at Triple-A Omaha. Giavotella is expected to arrive in time for tonight’s game and, initially anyway, become the regular second baseman.
“(Getz) had been playing so well for us,” manager Ned Yost said. “You hate to see it. Gio is going to play second base…He’ll play five, six days a week to start with – depending on production and everything else that goes into it.”
Mendoza (7-8) allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings while striking out six and walking one. It was his seventh quality start in his last nine outings and lowered his ERA to 4.26.
“Really good,” Perez said. “He threw to both sides of the plate, and he could throw any pitch in any count. He had tremendous control. He hit his spots.”
Kelvin Herrera replaced Mendoza to start the eighth but ran into immediate trouble by surrendering singles to Dayan Viciedo and Gordon Beckham, which put runners at first and second.
Pinch-hitter Dewayne Wise struck out after failing to execute a sacrifice. Herrera then ended the inning by striking out Kevin Youkilis and Adam Dunn. Greg Holland pitched around a first-and-third threat with two outs in the ninth for his fifth save.
This was the third time in 34 days that Sale and Mendoza hooked up. Sale and the White Sox won 2-1 on July 15 at Kauffman Stadium and 4-2 on Aug. 6 in Chicago. This time was different.
“(Mendoza) brought it tonight,” Sale said. “He was sharp and I got out-pitched. Straight up, honestly.”
It was 2-2 in the seventh when Mike Moustakas, who didn’t start, served a one-out single into right. He easily moved to third when Alcides Escobar punched a hit-and-run single into right field.
Sale struck out Alex Gordon, but Escobar stole second on the swinging third strike. That prompted an intentional walk to Billy Butler, whose homer in the sixth pulled the Royals into the 2-2 tie.
“You look at their lineup,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said, “and Billy’s a guy you want to stay away from. We took a chance with Perez.”
Perez answered by powering a two-run double over Viciedo’s head in left.
“My last at-bat before the double,” Perez said, “(Sale) threw me changeups. So I was thinking he might do that again. I took the first pitch to see what was coming. He threw me a changeup on the first pitch right in the middle.
“I thought, `OK, maybe he’ll throw one again.’ He threw one, and I fouled it off. He threw a fastball – a fastball high. Then he threw another changeup.”
It was down and away, but Perez yanked it deep to left.
“I hit it good,” he said, “but it was off the end of the bat. So I was thinking double. I knew it was over (Viciedo’s) head when I saw him running back.”
Jesse Crain replaced Sale and stranded runners at second and third by retiring Lorenzo Cain, who had opened the scoring with a homer in the second. But the Royals had enough for Herrera and Holland.
Sale (14-4) allowed four runs and nine hits in 6 2/3 innings.
“I’ve still got to go out there and be better than that,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve faced a team, you’re still expected to go out there and do your job. I didn’t get it done tonight.”
The White Sox got an early scare when Escobar’s one-out hopper to the mound in the first appeared to carom off Sale’s wrist for a single. Sale remained in the game after an on-field examination and two practice pitches.
Cain’s one-out homer in the second staked the Royals to a 1-0 lead.
Chicago got even when Paul Konerko, activated prior to the game, turned around a 2-0 fastball for a two-out homer in the fourth. It was his first game since suffering a concussion Aug. 10 when elbowed in the head by Jarrod Dyson on a play at first.
“I didn’t make too many mistakes,” Mendoza said, “but I made one mistake with Konerko.”
Sale pitched around Perez’s one-out double in the fourth, but the White Sox cashed Alexei Ramirez’s one-out double in the fifth. Beckham drove a two-out RBI single to right, although he was thrown out in trying for second.
Chicago led 2-1.
After Tony Abreu opened the Royals’ fifth with a single, Getz suffered a fractured left thumb when he fouled off a bunt. Getz initially remained in the game, and struck out, but did not return to the field for the sixth.
Abreu switched from third to second, and Moustakas entered the game at third base.
Butler pulled the Royals back even at 2-2 with a moon-shot homer with one out in the sixth. The ball sailed into the back of the Royals’ bullpen beyond the left-field wall for his club-leading 25th homer of the season.
“I tend to, as the day goes on, have better at-bats off (Sale),” Butler said. “He’s still really funky. It’s a lot of moving parts, and he’s changing speeds. He threw a good game. We just had a couple of big hits off him.
“Sal got the deciding hit with men in scoring position. That’s when it counts.”