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White Sox Mon Aug 20 2012

A Royal Pain: Sox Get Swept In Kansas City

As was said about 500,000 times this weekend, "The White Sox are a different team this season when playing the Royals." And after a three game sweep where the Royals outscored the Sox 18-8, who can disagree?

Everything went Kansas City's way. Chicago came up short on the tougher aspects of the game (like not driving in sorely needed runs late in the game), yet also struggled with the easy things (four errors in Saturday's game). The now third-place Royals rolled out their best three starting pitchers, and Chicago had no answers.

It was a sweep that felt like a sweep. The Royals played better ball and deservedly won all three contests. The White Sox had their chances to steal every game, though.

- In game one, Chris Sale allowed a few difference-providing runs, and the Sox could not get the bats going late, losing 4-2.

After trading runs for the first six innings, Sale took the mound in the seventh with the score 2-2. The Royals broke the game open on Salvador Perez's bases-loaded 2-RBI double, ending Sale's night. Sale left with 117 pitches thrown.

The Opportunity: Trailing 4-2 in the top of the eighth with no outs, the Sox rapped consecutive singles. That brought up the top of the order.

What Happened: Dewayne Wise, Kevin Youkilis and Adam Dunn were all retired by strikeouts, swinging. Kansas City reliever Kelvin Herrera was an absolute flame-thrower: he used his two high-90s fastballs and his mid-80s changeup to keep the Sox batters guessing. That was it for the opener.

- Bruce Chen has been craftily dominant over the Sox in the month of August. He was not overpowering in his start on Saturday (not by any measurement), but he found a way to only allow two runs in his six innings in Kansas City's 9-4 victory.

Chen used his looping breaking ball and accurate fastball to constantly get the Sox batters 0-2 or 1-2. The Sox batters would typically take a strike, then foul off a few pitches. They might even watch Chen's 0-2 offering sail way outside for a ball. Then, with the count in his favor, the lefty Chen would drop a backdoor breaking ball in for a reverse-K (three strikeouts looking), or use his mid-80s fastball to induce a weak grounder or routine fly ball. The Sox couldn't touch him, and even calling him "Cy Chen" could not jinx the career .500 pitcher.

Elsewhere in the second game, the White Sox were undone because of three things.

1. In the bottom of the third, the Royals plated two runs, partially because of three Sox errors in the rain (though only one run was directly due to an error - Gordon Beckham dropping an inning-ending tag at second).

2. Alcides Escobar perfected the pesky middle infielder role, with four infield singles.

3. Billy Butler delivered nearly every time, driving in three runs on three singles. In each of Butler's first two RBIs, the Sox declined to intentionally walk him even though they had a base open and two outs. Surprisingly, Butler came to the plate in the sixth with the bases loaded, yet grounded into an inning-ending fielder's choice.

The Opportunity: The Sox somehow trailed by a run in the bottom of the eighth. Paul Konerko hit a two-run shot in the sixth, and Dunn followed up in the eighth with his own two-run blast (his 400th home run of his career). Only one out in the inning

What Happened: After Dunn's homer, Konerko and Alex Rios struck out to end the inning. In the bottom of the frame, Brett Myers let a few runners get on with two outs (including Escobar and Butler), then layed a fastball right down the pipe that Mike Moustakas crushed for a three-run home run. Ballgame.

- In Sunday's series finale, Jeremy Guthrie took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before it was broken up by a Paul Konerko infield single. He even had a perfect game through the first 14 batters.

Leave it to a Royal to lose both pitching feats in two of the more heartbreaking ways possible: his perfecto was ruined by a borderline 3-2 called ball four against AJ Pierzynski, and the no-no ended when Konerko reached first after a less-than-perfect throw by shortstop Alcides Escobar that first baseman Eric Hosmer nearly scooped for the out. It was ruled a hit, but it could have been called an error.

The Opportunity: Guthrie's performance quickly became a thing of the past. In the eighth, the Sox, with two outs, finally got to the righty. Dayan Viciedo lined a sharp single to right center, and Ray Olmedo hit a grounder that got through the right side. After KC brought in reliever Tim Collins, Dewayne Wise hit a ball on the screws to Hosmer. Hosmer botched it, the ball got under him, and two runs scored. Wise got to third. Go ahead run 90 feet away for Gordon Beckham.

What Happened: Beckham popped out, ending the threat. In the bottom of the inning, the bullpen let the game get away. Jesse Crain, Donnie Veal and Nate Jones combined for three walks, two hits, and three runs, and the Royals took a 5-2 lead. It could have only been one run, but a throwing error on AJ Pierzynski allowed a run to score and prolonged the inning.

Still, with the Chicago's less than stellar performance of late, Detroit failed to capitalize, losing two of three to Baltimore this weekend (in Detroit, too). The Sox division lead stands at one and a half games. So, this race to the AL Central crown carries on. Even if it feels like the race is being run through molasses.

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