Zack Greinke at his April best probably isn’t good enough Friday to overcome the Royals’ white-flag attack. And he was far from his April best.
Not bad, really. Just not April.
And not nearly good enough to halt the Royals’ free fall, which accelerated further in a 5-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox in front of a fireworks-fueled sellout crowd at Kauffman Stadium.
The chief problem, as usual, was the Royals’ inability to mount an attack, although there was also a costly error by second baseman Alberto Callaspo that led to two unearned runs.
“It wears on you,” manager Trey Hillman said. “We’ve got to have better at-bats with the consistency one through nine _ especially one through six with guys who have some sort of history.
“They’re not living up to that history. We’ve got to get more production out of guys who have shown a history of doing it.”
The Royals suffered their sixth shutout of the season. It also marked their fourth straight game of scoring fewer than two runs, which ties a franchise record for futility. It happened twice in 2004 and once in 1984, 1974 and 1970.
“I know I missed a couple of pitches,” catcher Miguel Olivo said. “I don’t knowyou just come out and play (today).”
The Royals did little against Chicago starter John Danks, 7-6, before loading the bases with one out in the eighth inning. That threat fizzled with reliever Scott Linebrink got Callaspo to ground into a double play.
Linebrink then closed out Chicago’s seventh straight victory.
“We’re finally playing up to our capabilities,” said Danks, who allowed just five hits in 7 1/3 innings. “We’ve been saying we're better than what we’ve shown, and this last week or so we’ve started to prove it.”
The White Sox got the only run they needed on A.J. Pierzynski’s one-out homer in the second inning. The two unearned runs came in the third inning before Chicago added single runs in the fourth and seventh.
Greinke, 10-4, lasted just six innings before exiting after yielding four runs and nine hits. Two runs were unearned, which enabled him to record his 14th quality start in 17 outings.
“Not one of my best,” he said. “It was mainly just a couple of guys who always beat me, and they did it again -- (Scott) Podsednik and Pierzynski. I just can’t get those two out. I’ve thrown everything, and they’ve hit everything.”
Podsednik and Pierzynski each had three of Chicago’s 12 hits, although Pierzynski’s last one came against reliever Roman Colon. Podsednik is now 16 for 30 in his career against Greinke, while Pierzynski is 16 for 37.
“You’re facing the best pitcher in the game,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. “Doing what we did, that’s helping the confidence we have right now.”
The damage to Greinke’s ERA was slight -- rising from 1.95 to 2.00 -- but still marks a season-high. He threw just 82 pitches, which would be a season low if not for his 80-pitch outing last Sunday in Pittsburgh when he didn’t return after a 59-minute rain delay in the seventh inning.
The Royals lost for the 35th time in 50 games and fell a season-high 13 games below .500 at 33-46. Their current skid is four in a row despite getting quality starts in each game from their rotation.
The White Sox opened the scoring when Pierzynski yanked a first-pitch fastball from Greinke into the right-field bullpen with one out in the second inning.
Podsednik started the two-run third inning by slicing a one-out double into the left-center gap. Greinke struck out Jayson Nix before walking Jermaine Dye.
Jim Thome then hit a hopper to the right side that eluded Callaspo, who charged in from short right field in an overshifted alignment.
The ball scooted on the grass under Callaspo’s glove for an error that enabled Podsednik to score. Paul Konerko followed with a slicing double to right for another run.
“The error obviously hurt,” Hillman said. “You play the regular shift on Thome, and he hits the ball uncharacteristically soft. I think we still have him out if we make the play.”
Then again, it probably didn’t matter.
Greinke surrendered three more hits and another run in the fourth. Rookie Gordon Beckham, the eighth overall pick in last year’s draft, pulled a one-out double down the left-field line and scored on DeWayne Wise’s RBI single through the right side.
Chicago got its final run on Thome’s RBI single in the seventh against reliever Robinson Tejeda.
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