Johnny Cueto after White Sox’ loss: ‘We need to fight. We need to show the fire’

The 8-3 loss dropped the Sox to 56-55. They’re 8-7 during a stretch of 19 games against teams with losing records.

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Johnny Cueto allowed three runs (two earned) against the Royals Wednesday night.

Johnny Cueto allowed three runs (two earned) against the Royals Wednesday night.

Charlie Riedel/AP

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It just isn’t happening.

Facing good teams, bad teams or in between, the White Sox just can’t generate a sustained run to help them overtake the Twins or Guardians in the American League Central.

Their 8-3 loss Wednesday to a Royals team sitting 20 games below .500 was the latest flat tire along a mediocre road well traveled.

The result dropped the Sox to 56-55. They need to beat the Royals on Thursday afternoon to split a four-game series and go 4-4 on a road trip against Kansas City and the Rangers, another team with a losing record.

The Sox are 8-7 during a stretch of 19 games against teams with losing records.

“We need to be more aggressive, show more swagger,” said right-hander Johnny Cueto, who allowed three runs (two earned) in his latest quality start. “We can’t get comfortable. We need to go out and play and play hard and show what we can do.

“We need to fight. We need to show the fire that we have — if we have any.”

It was the Sox’ fourth failed attempt to climb three games over .500 for the first time since April 17. The ability to sustain a decent run just hasn’t happened.

“Not yet,” manager Tony La Russa said, standing up for his team. “Doesn’t mean you can’t and won’t.

“Because I know it’s in here [in the clubhouse]. If we didn’t have that, we would have been buried a long time ago. The fact we’re still clawing and fighting tells you we can still make something good happen that’s consistent.”

 The Sox had a favorable matchup with Cueto pitching against Royals left-hander Kris Bubic, and they led 3-1 in the sixth after Gavin Sheets’ sharp ground ball went off Royals second baseman Michael Massey for a two-run error before Josh Harrison knocked in the third run with a single.

But the Royals pushed across two runs (one unearned because of an error on third baseman Yoan Moncada) in the sixth to tie it, the third scoring on Massey’s single against Cueto with two outs.

In the seventh, MJ Melendez won a lefty-lefty matchup against Jake Diekman, breaking the tie with a homer to right, his 14th of the season.

After that, the Royals blew it open against right-hander Jimmy Lambert in the eighth inning. Kyle Isbel punched a single through a drawn-in infield to score two runs, and Melendez and Salvador Perez singled in runs to make it 8-3.

After the Royals tied it at 3, the Sox’ offense went completely flat, going down in order in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings against Josh Staumont, Dylan Coleman and Luke Weaver. Jose Abreu, Andrew Vaughn, Moncada (looking), Yasmani Grandal (looking) and Sheets struck out in succession.

Cueto allowed nine hits and walked one but got three inning-ending double plays.

Power outage

The Yankees’ Aaron Judge hit his 45th homer, which is one fewer than the Sox’ top four home-run hitters combined. Abreu (14), Luis Robert (12), Vaughn (11) and Sheets (nine) are the Sox’ leaders.

The Sox were tied with the Athletics for 25th in the majors with 96 homers through Tuesday.

This and that

Moncada struck out looking twice, made a throwing error and double-clutched a throw that resulted in a hit. 

AJ Pollock had a very large bruise on his left foot from a foul ball Tuesday and did not play, although he was available, and he figures to play in the series finale.

Dylan Cease (12-4, 1.98 ERA) makes his team-leading 23rd start of the season Thursday, seeking his sixth consecutive victory.

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