KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- What an implosion.
A day after they inexplicably gave away one contest, the White Sox outdid themselves on Saturday afternoon.
Instead of evening the series with a decisive victory, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle allowed the Kansas City Royals to rally for seven ninth-inning runs to send the White Sox to a stunning 8-7 loss in front of 31,598 at Kauffman Stadium. Brett Eibner’s bases-loaded RBI single off Kahnle capped an improbable comeback and delivered another crushing blow to the White Sox, who have lost five straight and 13 of their last 17 contests.
“This is a tough one, no matter how you look at it,” third baseman Todd Frazier said. “You saw what happened. You can go back and think about it, game we should have won and didn’t win.”
“We’re all professionals and we’ve seen crazy things in baseball. This is one of them.”
Saturday’s loss ranks as one of the craziest in club history. The White Sox went from a state of joy, cruising toward a pivotal victory, to disarray in a span of 51 pitches.
Leading 7-1, Robertson took over and struck out Paulo Orlando.
Cheslor Cuthbert then singled and Eibner doubled to deep right when Adam Eaton lost the ball in the sun. Robertson walked Omar Infante and Alcides Escobar consecutively to force in a run, which prompted a visit from White Sox manager Robin Ventura.
Whit Merrifield’s grounder then deflected off the glove of Robertson and a potential double play turned into a two-run single and made it a 7-4 contest.
“The worst part about it was looking back and seeing Brett (Lawrie) was right there,” Robertson said. “If I had let it go, I would have got us out of the inning. It’s frustrating when you make a mistake like that.”
Lorenzo Cain’s hustle kept the inning alive as he narrowly beat out a game-ending double play to drive in another run. Eric Hosmer followed with an RBI double to right-center field to make it a 7-6 game and end Robertson’s day.
“It’s a terrible performance on my part,” Robertson said. “Can’t say much else about it.
“It doesn’t matter what the score is, I still have to get three outs. I let the whole team down.”
Drew Butera lifted his team’s spirits. The backup catcher entered in the ninth inning after an apparent knee injury knocked Salvador Perez out of the game. Already on tilt, the Kauffman crowd erupted when Butera ripped a 99-mph fastball from Kahnle for a game-tying double.
The White Sox opted to intentionally walk Orlando. But it didn’t prevent Kahnle from allowing Butera to advance to third as he uncorked a wild pitch. Kahnle also intentionally walked Jarrod Dyson to load the bases for Eibner, who ended a 10-pitch at-bat with the game-winning single under the glove of Sox first baseman Jose Abreu.
“The way games have been going, you go to the guy to close it out, because we haven’t been able to get to him,” Ventura said. “There’s no shot clock. There’s no time clock. If you can’t close it out, that’s what happens. And today we couldn’t close it out.”
The White Sox entered the ninth inning without a care in the world. They had bounced back definitively from Friday’s stunner, when the bullpen surrendered a four-run lead over the final three innings.
An opposite-field approach against Kansas City starter Yordano Ventura took hold with two outs in the fourth inning. Brett Lawrie, Alex Avila and Avisail Garcia all had opposite-field singles, Garcia’s providing the White Sox a 1-0 lead. Tyler Saladino then crushed a hanging 0-2 slider from Ventura for a three-run homer to left field and a four-run lead.
The White Sox offense continued to add on against Ventura. Avila doubled with one out in the fourth inning and Garcia hammered a 2-1 changeup for a two-run shot. Garcia’s homer, his fifth, traveled 428 feet at an exit velocity of 113 mph and gave the White Sox a 6-1 advantage.
They added another run in the fifth as Austin Jackson singled, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on a throwing error by Omar Infante.
And then the Royals happened again.
“They have mojo over there right now,” Avila said. “They just keep coming at you and taking advantage of the fact that we’re scuffling a little bit right now.”
The devastating loss was the third in 18 days in which the White Sox bullpen surrendered a significant lead. The unit, which has a 4.73 ERA this month, also blew a five-run lead in a 13-11 loss at the Texas Rangers on May 10. Along with a blown four-run lead on Friday, the White Sox nearly surrendered a four-run advantage in the opening game of a doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians on Monday.
“It might have a lasting effect,” Frazier said. “There are going to be some guys who are in here who tonight aren’t going to be real happy. Once you get in here and know we start over again, I’ve learned from the best that you start all over like nothing happened and go about your business.”