Just as was the case Friday, the White Sox were doomed by one bad inning and a lackluster offensive effort.
Hector Noesi allowed five runs -- only two of which were earned -- in the fourth inning while the White Sox couldn't solve Royals southpaw Danny Duffy in a 9-1 loss Saturday afternoon in front of 24,527 fans at U.S. Cellular Field.
Noesi cruised through the Royals lineup in his first three innings, keeping Kansas City hitters off balance with a dancing changeup that helped generate four strikeouts. But the second time through the order Kansas City started making contact and, with the help of some White Sox defensive miscues, knocked Noesi out of the game.
The Royals quickly loaded the bases in the fourth when Billy Butler drew a four-pitch walk and Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez each singled. The floodgates opened when Lorenzo Cain's sharp ground ball scooted through the legs of Leury Garcia at third base, bringing home two runs. It wasn't necessarily a double play ball -- not with the speedy Cain running and Garcia playing back -- but it could've been close.
Two batters later, following Mike Moustakas' RBI single, Dayan Viciedo couldn't run down Alcides Escobar' shallow fly ball to left, which fell for a single to re-load the bases. The Royals plated two more runs to complete the five-run frame.
"We didn't play defense behind Hector and that's a recipe to lose a game in a hurry," manager Robin Ventura said. "It has to get better if you're going to plan on winning games, that's for sure. Hector, he's been good for us. He's always given us a chance but you have to help him out on occasion."
Noesi lasted only 3 2/3 innings, his shortest outing since his first start with the White Sox in late April against Detroit. He didn't feel like Kansas City was bludgeoning the pitches he threw -- instead, it was a lot of ground balls through the infield and bloop singles. The apt cliche would be death by a thousand paper cuts in this instance.
"I made good pitches down and they hit them," Noesi said. "I can’t control everything, you know. I go out there and do my best and show my team I can go longer than (3 2/3) innings."
While Javy Guerra threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings and Scott Downs only allowed a solo homer to Mike Moustakas in his two innings, the White Sox offense couldn't claw its way back into the game. Kansas City piled on three more runs in the ninth off Daniel Webb, punctuated by Billy Butler's two-run opposite field home run.
Duffy put on a clinic for pitching with a lead, scattering five hits with one walk and nine strikeouts over his seven innings of work. The left-hander deftly worked off his fastball, confidently spotting it in and out to set up his curveball and changeup.
The White Sox avoided a shutout when Paul Konerko served his fourth home run of the season over the left field wall to lead off the ninth. But just like Friday, the White Sox couldn't mount a comeback after Kansas City plated five in an inning.
"They have a lot of guys on their team that they’ve proven over the years they can string a bunch of hits together," Konerko said. "Hopefully it ends tomorrow. Good teams and good hitters are going to get their hits. They are obviously doing that right now, but we have to try to stop the bleeding tomorrow."