CHICAGO — However you spent Cinco de Mayo, chances are you enjoyed yourself Wednesday night more than the Royals.
The Royals trailed by a touchdown before manager Trey Hillman finally located a pitcher who could throw strikes on a long forgettable night at U.S. Cellular Field.
The short of it is this: Andruw Jones and Alex Rios hit two-run homers that helped carry the Chicago White Sox to a 9-2 victory — "helped" being the operative word.
Royals starter Brian Bannister contributed two walks to a four-run first inning that included Jones' homer. Bannister and Bruce Chen combined for four walks in a two-run fourth that made it 7-0.
And Brad Thompson, the strike-thrower, served up Rios' blast after a two-out error by Alberto Callaspo extended the sixth inning. Thompson had retired six in a row upon replacing Chen prior to Callaspo's error.
Robinson Tejeda also threw strikes in two scoreless innings of mop-up duty.
The Royals did muster 12 hits but converted them into only two runs. Both came against Chicago starter Freddy Garcia, who yielded 10 hits in his six innings but still got his first victory after two losses.
Scott Linebrink, J.J. Putz and Bobby Jenks closed out the victory, which enabled the White Sox to win the three-game series and, at 12-16, edge past the Royals (11-17) for third place in the American League Central Division.
The Royals, after 28 games, find themselves eight games behind first-place Minnesota.
Bannister (1-2) had permitted two or fewer runs in four of his previous five starts. This one, he'd like to forget. He lasted just three batters into the fourth inning but surrendered seven runs and seven hits. His ERA spiked from 3.48 to 5.03.
Bannister's troubles started in the first inning after a one-out walk to Gordon Beckham, a .213 hitter with four RBIs in 25 games. Jones followed with a two-run homer over the center-field wall.
It was the 397th homer of Jones' career, which moved him past Joe Carter and into sole possession of 49th place on baseball's all-time list.
Bannister fanned Paul Konerko for the second out before the White Sox continued their early assault. Rios doubled past center fielder Willie Bloomquist and A.J. Pierzynski walked. Singles by Carlos Quentin and Mark Teahen extended the lead to 4-0.
Chicago added another run in the second inning after Juan Pierre led off with a single and a steal. Konerko produced the RBI with a two-out double into the left-field corner.
Bannister breezed through the third but exited with no outs in the fourth after Chicago loaded the bases by sandwiching two walks around a single. In came Chen, who immediately forced in a run by walking Jones.
Konerko popped out, but Rios made it 7-0 with a sacrifice fly to right. Chen then reloaded the bases with another walk, which prompted another pitching change.
Thompson stranded all three runners by retiring Quentin on a fly to left.
The Royals avoided the shutout by starting the fifth with successive singles by Mike Aviles, Jason Kendall and Chris Getz. That was it, though, for that threat. Garcia retired the next three hitters.
Three more hits in the sixth again produced just one run. Jose Guillen doubled to right with one out and scored on Albert Callaspo's single. Aviles flied out before Kendall double to left moved Callaspo to third.
Garcia ended the inning, and saved two runs, by snagging Getz's sharp liner back to the box. Rios' homer in the bottom of the inning closed the scoring.