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Royals’ offensive funk deepens in 4-1 loss to White Sox

More of the same.

The Royals wasted another fine performance from a starting pitcher Thursday night -- that makes three in a row -- in a 4-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium.

In isolation, this one was understandable. The Royals were matched against Chicago ace Mark Buehrle, who can do this to anyone and has often done it in the past to the Royals.

But the overall offensive flat-lining is accelerating.

The Royals have scored just three runs in losing their last three games; 19 runs in losing five of their last seven; and 31 runs in losing eight of their last 12.

They haven’t scored five runs since a 12-5 loss to the Cardinals on June 19 and haven’t scored more than five since 7-1 victory over the Reds on June 14.

That’s 18 days without scoring more than five runs.

“I wish I had answers,” said designated hitter Mike Jacobs, whose average tumbled to .226 when he went zero for three. “It’s embarrassing. That’s what it is. It’s embarrassing to all of us. We all should be embarrassed.

“There’s no way we should be playing the kind of ball we’ve been playing, not scoring runs, not hitting, not doing the things we should be doing. There’s really no answer for it, unfortunately.”

If not, the next three months should be excruciating.

“Some of them do have track records,” manager Trey Hillman said. “I don’t necessarily think it’s (indicative of) what the majority of them are because there are some track records.

“The other guys, it’s on-the-job training in getting multiple at-bats that you didn’t necessarily expect them to get. They’ve got to continue to make adjustments very quickly at this level in order to be productive.”

When they don’t, this happens

Buehrle, 8-2, lowered his ERA to 3.09 and improved his career record against the Royals to 20-8 in 40 appearances. He allowed one run and six hits in 8 1/3 innings and permitted just one runner to reach second until the ninth -- a two-out double by Mitch Maier in the third inning. The Royals avoided the shutout, and knocked out Buehrle, when Alberto Callaspo and David DeJesus produced doubles in the ninth. That brought Bobby Jenks into the game for the final two outs and his 19th save in 21 opportunities.

Royals lefty Bruce Chen, 0-2, delivered his second straight solid start since arriving Saturday from Class AAA Omaha by limiting the White Sox to two runs and five hits in six-plus innings.

“I felt like I mixed my pitches,” he said. “I was keeping the ball down, and I felt like I gave this team a chance to win. Unfortunately, we didn’t win.”

Nope, all he got was a loss -- much like Brian Bannister and Gil Meche in the two previous games against the Twins. Royals starters allowed a combined five runs in 19 innings in registering three straight quality starts.

All for nothing.

The White Sox, in contrast, are on a roll after a rocky start in defense of their American League Central Division crown. This was their sixth straight victory and 13th in 17 games. They now trail first-place Detroit by just 2½ games.

For the Royals, the numbers just keep getting grimmer. They are a season-worst 12 games below .500 at 33-45 after losing for the 34th time in 49 games. They also find themselves a season-worst 10 games out of first place. It’s not just the lack of offense, either.

The Royals ran themselves into double plays in the first two innings by breaking too far off first base on routine fly balls to the outfield. The inability to turn potential double plays on two occasions in the ninth produced Chicago’s final run.

In-between, the White Sox did just enough.

Jayson Nix hit a leadoff homer in the fourth inning. Jim Thome’s leadoff double in the seventh led to the second run. Ron Mahay then followed a one-out walk to Brian Anderson in the eighth with a wild pitch before Scott Podsednik dumped an RBI single into center.

Lots of little things that get magnified by a growing lack of offense.

“Our pitchers keep putting up quality starts or close to it,” third baseman Mark Teahen said, “and we don’t offer anything on the other side.

“We’re not playing great defense. We’re not swinging the bats well. We’re not running the bases all that great. We need to clean it up.”

To reach Bob Dutton, send e-mail to bdutton@kcstar.com.

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