White Sox fail to gain traction in Kansas City, get routed 9-1

Lance Lynn’s ERA climbed to 7.51 after he allowed seven runs in five innings.

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Elvis Andrus muffs a pop-up during the first inning Wednesday in Kansas City, Missouri.

Elvis Andrus muffs a pop-up during the first inning Wednesday in Kansas City, Missouri.

Charlie Riedel/AP

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s only mid-May, and every game feels crucial for the White Sox. Every loss cuts deeper.

It’s not supposed to be like this during the marathon nature of a 162-game season, but such is life for the team that opens with a dreadful 13-25 record.

“We dug ourselves a hole,” manager Pedro Grifol has said over and again during a recent mini-revival that saw his team win six of 10 games and provide glimmers of guarded optimism.

The Sox dug their ditch along the dusty AL Central trail just a little deeper Wednesday with a 9-1 loss to a team that’s even worse than they are but closing in from behind. The Sox dropped the third game of a four-game series Wednesday against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Lance Lynn (1-5) gave up four runs and six hits in the first inning, setting the tone.

“A lot of mistakes in the middle of the plate,” Lynn said. “I couldn’t get the ball elevated when I needed to and when I tried to go down, it was in the middle of the plate, too. A lot of things were thigh-high and they made me pay for it, a lot of hits in a row. Just not good.”

Now the Sox need a win Thursday afternoon to split the four-game series. And to think winning the series, or even sweeping it, was considered going in.

With the Sox, it’s almost always gloom and doom now after a loss, especially when Opening Day starter Dylan Cease and team leader Lynn gave up a combined 14 runs and 18 hits in five-inning starts in a span of three days.

Win, and former manager and current TV host Ozzie Guillen, says on air that they can win the division.

So it goes in a weak AL Central Division, where the Sox trail the first-place Twins by 7½ games and are making preparations for the returns of Yoan Moncada on Friday in Chicago and closer Liam Hendriks and lefty reliever Garrett Crochet on Tuesday. Hendriks, who beat cancer, pitched a scoreless inning in his minor-league rehab assignment Wednesday. Crochet was good, too. Moncada is hitting .571 at his rehab stint.

Hendriks undoubtedly will provide a boost in more ways than one.

“Once he’s back in Chicago, it’s going to be special,” said outfielder Jake Marisnick, who was called up from Charlotte on Wednesday.

Hendriks is slated to pitch Thursday for his first back-to-back test. He’ll get two days rest, pitch for Charlotte on Sunday and if all goes to plan, be activated Tuesday. Crochet could come with him.

Grifol said Hendriks’ first game in Chicago will be “inspirational.”

But there was nothing inspiring about the Sox’ latest performance. Lynn faced 10 batters in the first and finished with seven runs and nine hits, including two homers allowed in five innings.

It didn’t help that second baseman Elvis Andrus couldn’t glove a pop fly near the right-field foul line in the first, or that hard-charging but slow-footed right fielder Gavin Sheets couldn’t get there before Andrus. The Sox’ weaknesses don’t avoid being exposed for long.

Speaking of weaknesses, Lynn’s 7.51 ERA is the worst among qualified AL starters. And Cease (5.58) had a similar line against the Royals on Monday, giving up seven runs and nine hits in five innings.

The Sox were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, 1-for-6 in the first two innings against Brad Keller. Luis Robert Jr.’s power-packed eight-game hitting streak was abruptly halted with four strikeouts in four plate appearances.

The Sox have alternated wins and losses over their last eight games.

Lynn is keeping the faith.

“We’ve won our last two series [against the Twins and Reds],” Lynn said. “We win [Thursday], we push this one. So that’s called chipping away.”

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