The Royals aren't dead just yet.
Kansas City clipped the Chicago White Sox, 6-4, to even up the series on Saturday night. Runs were expected to be scored in a matchup of struggling veteran pitchers, but for the Royals, they came later than expected. Fortunately, they all count the same.
Facing James Shields, the anchor of Kansas City's successful 2013 and 2014 rotations, the Royals opened up a quick lead. Jarrod Dyson opened the game with a single, and then Eric Hosmer launched a two-run home run to dead center field. It was Hosmer's 22nd bomb of the year, extending his career high. He also now has 90 RBI, which is one away from his personal best.
As for the White Sox offense, they put the leadoff man on in all five of Edinson Volquez' innings. Incredibly, only two of them scored. Melky Cabrera drove in a run in the third on a fielder's choice, and Omar Narvaez had an RBI groundout. Sandwiched in between those runs was another Kansas City home run against James Shields, this one by Alex Gordon. His 15th home run of the year, a solo shot, gave the Royals their third run of the game.
Leading 3-2, Volquez took the mound for the fifth inning. He gave up a leadoff hit. He then got a double play. But then, Chicago knocked three straight base hits against Volquez, two of them for extra bases, allowing the White Sox to claim a 4-3 lead.
Volquez' final line: 5.0 innings, nine hits, four runs, and just one strikeout. His ERA climbed to 5.09, which is the highest it has been since June 24 (the day he allowed 12 runs in 1.0 inning). He's the weak link in the rotation.
James Shields pitched pretty well, all things considered. He allowed just two hits after the first inning, so four in total to go along with three runs, four walks, and five strikeouts. When he left the mound after shutting out the Royals in the sixth inning, his team was ahead, 4-3.
The Royals, for what feels like the 10th time this year, did their damage against the Chicago bullpen. In the seventh inning, Christian Colon ripped a one-out single, and Terrance Gore was inserted as a pinch-runner. Gore's presence clearly distracted reliever Chris Beck, who threw over to first base about six times before walking Jarrod Dyson. It was then when Whit Merrifield stepped up and, with the runners going, smacked a double into the left-center gap. It was an absolutely perfectly executed hit-and-run. Both runs scored and the Royals took a 5-4 lead.
Kansas City added one more run in the inning when Kendrys Morales legged out a fielder's choice, avoiding an inning-ending double play. 6-4.
In a way, it was the perfect way for a game between Shields and the Royals to go: Shields pitches well, only to be screwed by either poor run support or his bullpen. How many times did we see this in his two years in Kansas City?
Kelvin Herrera pitched a perfect seventh inning against the heart of Chicago's order. Joakim Soria matched him with a 1-2-3 eighth inning; it was nice to see him have a smooth outing. And in the ninth, Wade Davis put runners on second and third with nobody out, but he struck out Tim Anderson for the first out. Then, Melky Cabrera reached on an infield the single up the middle, plating a run and putting the tying run on third base.
Up came Jose Abreu, the best hitter in the Chicago lineup. Davis fell behind 2-0, but he battled back and eventually blew a 97 mph fastball by him, scoring an enormous second out. Then, Davis struck out Justin Morneau with a high fastball to close out the contest.
The Royals are 73-68. They are treading water, which is fine for right now, but they seriously need to rip off a long winning streak soon if they want to make the playoffs for the third straight year.
Rookie Kevin McCarthy earned his first career win by getting the last out of the bottom of the sixth. He is 1-0.
Tomorrow: It's a good matchup for the series finale. Ian Kennedy will oppose Chris Sale. The Royals really need to take the set, so let's hope Kennedy (10-9, 3.76 ERA) is on top of his game.