Once again, the Royals find themselves digging out of a short-term hole. Friday’s 5-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field marked their ninth setback this season in 11 series openers.
It’s heartening, perhaps, to note the Royals came back to win three series and split a fourth after losing the first game. It’s less heartening, of course, that they’ve had so many opportunities to rebound over the season’s first five weeks.
The problem Friday was two-fold: Felipe Paulino, in his second start returning from the disabled list, allowed three key two-out hits; and the Royals did little against Chicago right-hander Gavin Floyd – even in those few occasions when they had opportunities.
“That guy (Floyd) had good stuff tonight,” shortstop Alcides Escobar said. “Really good. Every pitch was moving – moving a lot. His slider and his two-seamer.”
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Paulino, 1-1, allowed four runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. All four runs came on two-out hits: Adam Dunn hit a homer in the first, Gordon Beckham had an RBI single in the third, and Alex Rios rocked a two-run triple in the sixth.
Rios’ triple knocked Paulino out of the game.
“I got behind in the count,” Paulino said, “and I threw him a fastball away. He just handled it well. He put it on the track. But I don’t feel bad about that pitch. I think that was the right pitch for that moment. He just hit it well.”
That was more than enough for Floyd, who produced his fourth straight dominant start by yielding just five singles over 7 2/3 innings while striking out five and walking two. Floyd, 3-3, has allowed only four runs in 28 2/3 innings in his last four outings.
The Royals trailed 5-0 when they came to life in the eighth by loading the bases with one out on singles by Escobar, Jarrod Dyson and Alex Gordon. But Floyd closed his night by striking out Billy Butler on a slider that darted down and away.
“It was a ball out of the zone,” Butler said, “but it was tough to read. The same thing with the 2-1 pitch (earlier in the at-bat). I was looking slider on the 2-1 pitch, and I was looking slider on 3-2. It was just a really good pitch. You’d like to make contact.”
Matt Thornton replaced Floyd for a left-on-left matchup against Eric Hosmer and stranded all three runners with a strikeout. Hector Santiago closed out the victory with a scoreless ninth.
The Royals, 11-20, were blanked for the third time overall but the first in more than a month – April 9, to be exact, when they lost 1-0 at Oakland. All three shutouts have, oddly, come on the road, where they are 7-7. (That’s right: None in that 12-game skid.)
Chicago jumped to a 1-0 lead in the first when a rejuvenated Dunn crushed a 1-2 fastball from Paulino – a 409-foot bomb to right for his 11th homer of the season. It was Dunn’s sixth homer in the last 10 games and matched his entire 2011 total.
“I missed a spot,” Paulino said. “That was a fastball that was supposed to be in. But it cut back over the plate, and he’s seeing the ball well.”
The Royals had a chance to answer after loading the bases with one out in the second on two walks and a single, but Escobar’s soft chopper back to the mound resulted in a force at home.
“A check-swing,” Escobar said disgustedly. “Afterward, I was thinking, `Why didn’t I just pull back?’”
Humberto Quintero then ended the threat with a hopper to the mound.
Paulino got two quick outs in the third, including one on a glittering play by Escobar on a Dayan Viciedo grounder into the hole, before surrendering two ground singles that turned into a run.
Alejandro De Aza singled up the middle, stole second and came home on Beckham’s single up the middle. Beckham went to third on Dunn’s rulebook double – a bouncer into the right-field seats.
Paulino avoided further damage when Gordon made a diving catch on Paul Konerko’s sinking liner to left – a second web-gem defensive play in the inning.
Floyd, meanwhile, was in the process of retiring 11 in a row after the Royals mounted that threat in the second inning. Dyson broke the string with a leadoff single in the sixth, but Floyd retired the next three hitters: Gordon, Butler and Hosmer.
Beckham opened the Chicago sixth with a double off the center-field wall on a first-pitch fastball. After Dunn followed with a walk, Paulino got two outs before serving up a two-run triple to Rios on a full-count fastball – his 113th pitch.
“That was the killer,” manager Ned Yost said. “(Paulino) struck him out twice before, and the he was still throwing the ball well. He got to 3-2 and still needed to make a pitch – like Floyd did on Billy (in the eighth). Floyd made it; Paulino didn’t.”
That made it 4-0.
The White Sox added another run in the seventh against Kelvin Herrera after Eduardo Escobar drew a one-out walk, stole second and went to third when Quintero’s throw skipped into center. De Aza served an RBI single over a shortened infield.