KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The White Sox keep hitting. But their early pitching woes haven’t slowed down, either.
Starting pitcher Erik Johnson lasted only 4 2/3 innings on Friday, and an active White Sox offense found itself too far down to rally in a 7-5 loss to the Kansas City Royals in front of 40,103 at Kauffman Stadium. Johnson allowed seven earned runs and put 14 men on in his first start of the season, including three walks, part of six free passes issued by White Sox pitchers.
“I have to compete better for my team,” Johnson said. “They were right there and put five runs on the board after putting them in a hole. You have to give some credit to the offense. They are never giving up and fighting back.”
Kansas City’s offense put seven runs on the board by the fifth inning as they took advantage of several wild spots by Johnson.
The Royals got a pair of singles in the first inning, and Johnson struck third hitter Eric Hosmer with a 0-2 fastball to load the bases. Alex Gordon then cleared the bases with a three-run double to right-center to give Kansas City a 3-1 lead.
The Royals stretched the lead to 7-2 in the fifth when Johnson lost command. He sandwiched two walks around a Salvador Perez single to load the bases. Johnson then yanked a slider to Lorenzo Cain for a wild pitch to make it 5-2. Cain followed with a two-run single off the glove of a drawn-in Marcus Semien to stretch the lead to five runs. Johnson walked one more batter before he exited.
Through four games, White Sox pitchers have issued 20 walks and have a 5.35 ERA in 37 innings.
“You get behind that much against a lineup like this, and you just make it harder on yourself,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Guys battled and everything like that, but you know, you just can’t pitch from behind against these guys. They have too good of a lineup.”
The White Sox are finding their offense isn’t too shabby, either.
Jeremy Guthrie has had a strong history against the White Sox, and on Friday they made him labor.
A revamped lineup that had a .375 on-base percentage and 21 runs scored in their first series was back at it from the outset. Adam Eaton, who reached base three times in five plate appearances, singled ahead of a Semien double in the first and scored on Jose Abreu’s sac fly to put the White Sox ahead 1-0.
Down 4-1, the Sox added another run in the fifth on Conor Gillaspie’s one-out, bases-loaded sacrifice fly. Tyler Flowers, who finished 3-for-4 and had seven straight hits until the eighth inning, started the rally with a single. Cain then took a possible bloop hit away from Abreu in shallow center to strand two runners.
The White Sox continued to push Guthrie even after the Royals scored three runs in the fifth. Eaton drove in two runs with a single to left before Semien struck out to end the frame with two on and the White Sox down 7-4.
Avisail Garcia had an RBI groundout in the sixth to cut the deficit to 7-5. The White Sox had 15 more runners reach base Friday, including 12 against Guthrie, but finished 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
“The offense is doing a good job no matter what the situation is,” Flowers said. “We came up with a couple big hits. They just made some good pitches in those situations that could have escalated into bigger innings. That’s something we need to do a better job of too. We had them on the ropes a couple of times and a couple hits here and there. We were probably one or two hits away in those specific innings to take the momentum back and keep going.”
Rookie Jacob Petricka, who was promoted earlier in the day when Nate Jones went on the disabled list, followed Johnson with 2 1/3 shutout innings. Scott Downs also completed a scoreless inning.