White Sox blow four-run lead, lose to Royals

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Dan Jennings, one of four White Sox relievers used in the Royals’ four-run seventh inning, walked the only batter he faced. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The White Sox’ most glaring deficiency in the recent stretch of 12 losses in their last 16 games is run production. They’ve scored three runs or less in 24 of their 49 games.

The Sox can use another bat, preferably from the left side, either in the middle of the lineup or in the No. 2 spot. That said, the front office’s first priority as it pounds the pavement looking for help to bolster the roster is pitching.

“Overall we still like our team,’’ assistant general manager Buddy Bell said Friday. “There is no reason not to. But you can always add pitching. You can always look to get better there.’’

With ace Chris Sale (9-1, 2.66 ERA) and excellent No. 2 Jose Quintana (5-3, 2.22), the Sox are set at the top of their rotation. The other lefty, Carlos Rodon, is 2-4, 4.47, and after that it’s Mat Latos (6-1, 4.06) and Miguel Gonzalez (0-1, 4.57).

Gonzalez pitched well enough to win (6 1/3 innings, three runs) and left Friday’s tough 7-5 loss to the Kansas City Royals with a three-run lead, only to see the bullpen give it up to the hard-charging Royals in a four-run seventh.

Talk about getting an important road trip off to a nightmarish start.

“That’s the tough part. You finally get some runs on the board, you get what you need and you can’t hold on to it,’’ said manager Robin Ventura, whose team (27-22) lost for the fourth straight time and saw it’s lead in the AL Central sliced to one half game ahead of the Cleveland Indians (25-21) and one game ahead of the Royals (25-22).

Gonzalez’ two quality starts in a row nothwithstanding (both against the Royals) the Sox still want to deepen their pitching, both in the rotation and the bullpen. Dan Jennings, Matt Albers and Zach Duke – albeit on a punch shot flare to left with two outs by Eric Hosmer (four RBI) that scored the tying and go-ahead runs in the Royals’ four-run seventh – all failed Friday.

“The problem is every one is looking for pitching,’’ Bell said. “It will be interesting to see what a lot of the contending teams do as they get closer to figuring out if they can contend or not. We’re going to contend all year so it’s sort of a no brainer for us. [General manager ] Rick [Hahn] and [vice president] Kenny [Williams] are going to add whenever they can. Pitching is always the first priority. It always will be that way in our organization.’’

Melky Cabrera’s grand slam and Todd Frazier’s 15th homer for the Sox’ first back-to-back long balls this season had given the Sox a 5-1 lead after Danny Duffy had retired the first 16 batters.

Jennings’ walk to Jarrod Dyson was the first bad omen. Then Alcides Escobar — facing Albers– rolled a ground ball in front of shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who didn’t make a play for an infield single. Whit Merrifield singled between third and short scoring two runs to make it 5-4.

Escobar would be called out at third advancing on a ball that skipped away from catcher Dioner Navarro but an umpire’s review (the Royals had lost their challenge) put Escobar safely back on third. With runners on second and third, Ventura went to the left-hander, Duke, to face left-handed hitting Hosmer, rather than walk Hosmer and bring in Nate Jones to face Sal Perez.

“Dukey with Hosmer, he just got the bat on it and it got in the right spot,’’ Ventura said. “It seemed like anything you tried to do, it didn’t work.’’

Ventura said walking Hosmer, who recorded his fifth game-winning hit this season, was “considered but you load it up and don’t give Jonesy much to work with there. Dukey has had some good numbers against Hosmer.”

“You get the matchups you want but it doesn’t work out,’’ Ventura said. “A tough one that you can’t hold on to that. Gonzo got us to a great spot and we let it slip away.’’

Albers (1-4, 4.43 ERA), who had a hot hand in April, has suffered the loss in four of his last seven appearances.

“We know how things are going right now but it’s going to change,” Gonzalez said. “The bullpen has been battling, you can’t put your head down. You’re not always going to be perfect in this game.”


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