Royals turn tables on White Sox in 9-1 victory

CHICAGO | So this is what it looks like from the other side.

The Royals pulled a role reversal Saturday night on the Chicago White Sox in a 9-1 victory at U.S. Cellular Field.

Start with a well-pitched start by Gil Meche, add a pair of two-run homers by John Buck and Billy Butler, a three-run double by Mike Aviles and finish it off with some fine bullpen work.

The White Sox have been doing much the same, it seems, for years to the Royals, it seems, for years here.

The Royals blew the game open with a six-run eighth inning against three Chicago relievers. It fell one short of the club’s season-high seven runs in the sixth inning on July 3 at Baltimore.

It was still plenty.

Meche, 7-9, allowed just one run and two hits in 6 1/3 innings before the bullpen closed out the victory — just the 19th for the Royals in their last 71 games at The Cell.

Buck opened the scoring with a two-run homer in the fifth inning against White Sox starter Gavin Floyd, 10-6. Butler added an RBI single later in the inning.

Butler and Buck reversed roles in a three-run eighth against relievers Boone Logan, Nick Masset and Adam Russell. Butler’s homer against Masset followed a leadoff single by David DeJesus and extended the lead to 5-1.

Buck’s RBI single against Masset made it 6-1. Aviles cleared the bases with a bloop two-out double against Russell. The Royals sent 10 players to the plate.

Butler’s three-RBI game followed a four-RBI burst in Friday’s 9-5 loss. He also has homers in successive games for the first time in his career. Butler had just one RBI in his 25 previous games.

Buck’s three RBIs matched a season high. Aviles extended his hitting streak to nine games. Seven players scored at least one run. The balanced attack compensated for the absence of outfielder José Guillen, who missed his second straight game because of back spasms. Guillen is expected to play this afternoon in the series finale.

Meche was in top form. He retired the first seven hitters and never permitted more than one runner in any inning. He also struck out six, walked one and lowered his ERA to 4.55.

It continues Meche’s extended upswing after a miserable first month. He has won four of his last five decisions and has a 3.61 ERA over his last 16 starts.

Ron Mahay, Ramon Ramirez and Horacio Ramirez didn’t allow a hit over the final 2 2/3 innings.

Even so, it did get a little tense in the seventh before the Royals turned the game into a rout. Meche carried a 3-1 lead into the inning but issued a leadoff walk to Carlos Quentin on four pitches.

Meche started Jermaine Dye with two balls before fighting back with three straight strikes. The third strike was called by umpire Andy Fletcher and replays suggested Meche caught a break.

That was it for Meche, though.

Manager Trey Hillman summoned Mahay for a lefty-lefty matchup against Jim Thome, who hit a hit a hopper back to the mound. Mahay looked at second and seemed to have a sure out — and a possible double play — but chose instead to throw to first.

If it was a mistake, Mahay worked around it by retiring Paul Konerko on a fly to center.

Then came the six-run eighth.

Floyd was 7-1 with a 2.45 ERA in his previous 11 home starts. He yielded just one earned run to the Royals in six innings but trailed 3-1 when he departed.

Buck’s homer in the fifth followed an error by third baseman Joe Crede that allowed Ross Gload to reach base. Buck turned around an 0-1 fastball for his sixth homer of the season.

The Royals weren’t finished. Joey Gathright followed with a single, stole second, went to third on a ground out. Floyd pitched around DeJesus with an intentional walk, but Butler punched a first-pitch cutter into left for an RBI single.

Chicago didn’t get its second hit until Alexei Ramirez’s one-out triple in the sixth. The ball plugged the right-field corner, and Ramirez made third without a throw. That turned into the White Sox’s only run when Orlando Cabrera hit a sacrifice fly to deep right on a full-count fastball.

Related stories from Wichita Eagle