Tuesday night’s contest quickly went from a winnable one for the White Sox to downright ugly.
In a span of four batters in the sixth inning, the Kansas City Royals grabbed control of a tied game and rolled to a 7-1 win over the White Sox in front of 20,428 at U.S. Cellular Field.
With trade rumors continuing to develop, the White Sox dropped back to five games below .500 as the Royals scored four times off Scott Carroll and the White Sox bullpen. Bruce Chen dodged enough trouble over five innings to earn his eighth victory in 13 tries against the White Sox.
“I don’t know if we did anything all that great tonight,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “We didn’t pitch well, we didn’t field well, we didn’t hit well. So your chances of extending a winning streak aren’t going to happen. You have to be better than that.”
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If the White Sox weren’t already frustrated by their inability to score against Chen, the top of the sixth inning got them there.
With the score tied at 1, Billy Butler and Raul Ibanez both doubled with no outs to break the deadlock. Alcides Escobar then laid down a perfect bunt for a single to put runners on the corners with no outs. Carroll had Escobar picked off first base as Paul Konerko’s foot blocked the runner’s hand, but umpire Andy Fletcher missed the play and ruled safe. Ventura said Konerko didn’t notice it, either.
Though replays showed Escobar was clearly out, too much time had elapsed and Ventura couldn’t challenge the call.
Then things got worse.
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Carroll walked Nori Aoki with the last ball getting away from catcher Adrian Nieto for a run-scoring passed ball as Kansas City went ahead 3-1. Jarrod Dyson then bunted for a single and reliever Javy Guerra threw the ball away to allow another run to score. Omar Infante followed with a sacrifice fly to put the Royals ahead 5-1.
That was it.
“I just left a couple of pitches up to (Butler), or the one pitch that he hit up to him and then Ibanez,” Carroll said. “Those two pitches. So if I approach those at-bats a little differently it’s a different outing because it was 5-1 right there. Those two batters on base kind of put me in a hole.”
Whenever Chen pitches against them, its almost as if the White Sox start the game with a two-run deficit.
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Dayan Viciedo, who has had a fair amount of success versus Chen, struggled in two key spots early. With a man on third and two outs in the first, Viciedo, who came in hitting .344 with three homers against Chen, grounded out to second.
Two innings later and with the White Sox down a run, Viciedo flew out to left field to end a bases-loaded threat.
Adam Dunn broke up Chen’s shutout with an opposite-field home run to start the fourth inning, his 15th. But the White Sox stranded Moises Sierra at third as Nieto lined out.
Another potential rally was thwarted in the fifth inning when Conor Gillaspie lined out to Escobar right at second base and Alexei Ramirez was caught leaning off the bag.
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“He softens it up,” Ventura said. “Guys that can move it around, manipulate it in a way, cutting it in, running it away, making it really soft. He’s never really in the middle of the plate. He’s always all over the place. He’s just deceptive from either side.”
By the time they hit again, the White Sox trailed by four runs.
Mike Moustakas increased the deficit to six with a two-run home run in the eighth inning off Eric Surkamp. Moustakas celebrated Greek heritage night at U.S. Cellular Field with a pair of homers, including a solo shot off Carroll in the second inning.
Carroll allowed five runs (four earned) and 11 hits over five innings.
“It was just rusty,” Carroll said. “That’s kind of the way I felt. Early on I was able to get some strikeouts to get out of the first inning, but overall I just didn’t feel I had my best stuff. I competed well, but I just have to be better. The sixth inning is what really got me but up to that point I had just felt rusty.”