CHICAGO | It was back in ’64 that Sinatra first crooned the merits of Chicago being his kind of town in an amusing cinematic romp entitled Robin and the Seven Hoods. It has become, no surprise, something of a staple hereabouts.
It’s also a lie. Particularly that part about it being one town that won’t let you down.
Just ask the Royals.
This town always seems to let them down. It happened again Thursday when the Chicago White Sox completed a three-game sweep with a 6-2 victory that sent the Royals to their 11th consecutive road loss.
That leaves them just one shy of their club record for road losses and suggests that, right now, no town is their kind of town.
Chicago is worse than most, though.
The Royals are 18-51 at U.S. Cellular Field since the start of the 2001 season while being outscored 366-255.
So this was nothing new. Royals ace Gil Meche is now 3-8 with a 5.42 ERA after giving up five runs in 5 2/3 innings. Four of those runs came in the second inning and, with the Royals averaging less than four runs a game, that was plenty.
“As a pitching staff,” Meche said, “we’re not helping our offense. We’re giving up the big innings because everyone is pressing too much. I know I’m pressing. I’m trying to go out there and throw seven shutout innings instead of just going out there and pitching.
“We’re just struggling period, now, pitching and offensively. I know people are talking about our offense, but if we’re not doing our job, then it’s tough for everybody.”
Especially since Chicago veteran José Contreras, 6-3, continued his recent strong run by limiting the Royals to one runs and four hits in seven innings. It was his sixth consecutive start in which he pitched at least six innings while allowing fewer than three runs.
“In tough situations,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said, “his confidence level went up another notch. That’s why he’s pitching like he is.”
Matt Thornton pitched a scoreless eighth before Nick Masset allowed Mark Teahen’s leadoff homer in the ninth. That homer is the one silver lining: Teahen has homers in three straight games.
“We’re struggling to find our identity offensively,” he said. “It’s been a year-long thing. We’ve got to work through some down times and just grind it out. We have guys in the lineup capable of putting runs on the board, but we’re not producing right now.
The Royals, overall, have now lost 15 of their last 17 in falling to 23-37. That is just one game better than where stood a year ago after 60 games despite last season’s 11-26 start. They also fell 10½ games behind first-place Chicago in the American League Central Division.
“I’m frustrated,” manager Trey Hillman said. “I’m upset that we can’t figure out the process a little quicker. That’s my responsibility. We do situational hitting every day in the (batting practice) routine. Maybe we’ll take that to two rounds.”
One small glimpse of the Royals’ offensive struggles: They put a runner at second with no outs in three of the first seven innings. The next hitter failed all three times to do as little as move the runner to third.
“You hate to put yourself in a situation where you have to start putting sacrifice bunts on when you have leadoff doubles,” Hillman said. “But, obviously, if we don’t get better, that’s something we’re going to have to consider.”
Meche fueled the four-run second by bobbling a possible double-play grounder that could have limited the damage to one run.
“The bottom line,” he said, “is I need to start pitching. I’m not pitching well. I feel good. When I’m on the mound, it’s not like I don’t have good stuff. My stuff is there. I’m just not using it.”
The Royals stole their only run against Contreras when Gathright opened the third with a bunt single, stole second, stole third and came home when Ozuna mishandled the throw. The two steals boosted Gathright’s total to 16 in 18 attempts.
The Royals now head to New York for a four-game wraparound series and needing a victory Friday night — Kyle Davies goes against Yankees righty Darrell Rasner — to avoid matching the longest road losing streak in franchise history.
There was a 12-game skid in 1997 and another one at the start of the 2006 season. It figures to be a tall order.
The Royals have won just nine of 54 games at Yankee Stadium since the start of the 1995 season. And Sinatra seems to like that town, too.