September is the heat of the playoff race for contending teams–but it is “October” for the also-rans.
And the Kansas City Royals continue to play like an “October” team.
The White Sox again had their hands full Friday with the American League Central spoilers, who may yet decide if the division goes to the Sox or the Detroit Tigers.
This time the first career multi homer game by Royals leadoff man, center fielder Lorenzo Cain, was a poison pill leading to Friday’s 7-5 loss at U.S. Cellular Field before 26,660.
Cain’s two-run homer in the ninth off Addison Reed (3-2) broke a 5-5 tie–and gave the Royals a sixth straight victory against the Sox.
“A couple bad pitches and they hit them,” said Reed, whose ERA in non-save situations climbed to 6.33 compared to 3.25 in save situations.
“It doesn’t change things. Things just haven’t been going my way,” he said.
“But they’re a scrappy team,” he added of the Royals, who have won eight of their lat 11 against the Sox. “One through nine, they can hit. They give everyone trouble. The standings don’t show how good they are.”
Two time zones away, the pursuing Detroit Tigers were playing the Los Angeles Angels, leaving the Sox to scoreboard watch to see if their one-run lead in the American League Central would hold another night.
“People want to talk about Detroit [which arrives Monday for a four-game series], but we’re making sure our guys remain focused on the Royals because it’s a quick way to lose some games if you’re focused on other things,” manager Robin Ventura said.
The Sox already knew the Royals are good, having lost nine of their 13 meetings so far.
“They’ve done everything when we’ve played them–they play good, sound baseball; they hit; they pith well; they play good defense. They’re an all-around team. The start of the season didn’t start out that well for them, but lately they’ve been playing well.”
The Sox turned to their weapon of choice–the home run–to rebound three different times in the game when the Royals took a lead.
A.J. Pierzynski (25th) led the fourth with a solo drive. Dewayne Wise (seventh) hit one to lead the fifth. And Alexei Ramirez (ninth) hit a two-run homer in the sixth, tying the score at 5-5.
But the Sox stranded nine, including leaving the bases loaded in the eighth when Ventura opted to stay with Jose Lopez against Kelvin Herrera (2-2) with two outs.
“He’d seen him before. You like to stay with your guys,” Ventura said. “Even with Gordon [Beckham, who struck out with men at second and third in the inning and one out] I figured those were pretty good chances.
“We could get men on but we had problems getting them in,” he said. “You get frustrated. This was one of those games where we had plenty of opportunities but we gave them opportunities.”
Starter Francisco Liriano lasted into the sixth, but he walked the first two in that inning. Both scored when Nate Jones gave up a double to Jeff Francoeur and sacrifice fly to Eric Hosmer.
“I feel I’m not doing the job,” Liriano said. “I walked too many guys. I have to go deeper in games.”
The Sox bullpen has been scored on in 11 of its last 12 games at home, with a 5.63 ERA in that span.
Meanwhile, the offense has left 40 runners on base in the last five games.