The first two games of the White Sox weekend tilt with the Royals had already compounded concerns about their record in Kansas City, but Sunday added the anxieties of the offense's occasional abandonment of Jose Quintana, and recent poor performances against Kansas City starter Jeremy Guthrie.
On Sunday, those three factors items twisted together and delivered an over-the-top self-parody. Jose Quintana danced around command and control problems, only for a passed ball and a weak bouncer down the 3rd base line to account for the only two runs scored off of him. The 13 baserunners he allowed might have prompted another discussion about how sustainable his success is.
Instead, Jeremy Guthrie took a no-hitter into the 7th, which understandably became a bigger story. A two-out walk in the 5th inning ended his perfect game, the first "hit" off of Guthrie came when Eric Hosmer dropped a throw but was not tagged with an error for a Paul Konerko infield single, and the fear of being a historical footnote wasn't erased until Dayan Viciedo singled sharply with two outs in the 8th.
That single wound up starting an improbable rally. Any rally including a Rey Olmedo hit is already improbable, but certainly one capped off by DeWayne Wise shooting a grounder through Eric Hosmer's legs to tie the game at 2.
But general Kaufman Stadium incompetence came into play in the bottom half of the inning. Jesse Crain and Donnie Veal combined to walk three in the frame, A.J. Pierzynski threw an inning-ending double play ball into right field, and any notions of being rescued from a sweep went by the boards.
Royals 5, White Sox 2
Jose Quintana - 7 IP, 9 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, 110 pitches - Was too busy overthrowing his slider to get many whiffs, or avoid walks, but his fluky runner-stranding skills remain taut.
Jeremy Guthrie - 7.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 ER, BB, 5 K, 103 pitches - Not show-stopping, but pretty much jammed every right-hander he saw.
Adam Dunn - 0 for 4, 3 K - That sums it up nice enough.
A.J. Pierzynski - 0 for 2, BB, K, Passed ball, Throwing Error - There were no key offensive contributors, but A.J.'s mark on the game was at least memorable.
The White Sox had new life after tying things up in the 8th inning, and Jesse Crain gave up the lead after two batters. Walk, stolen base, single. DeWayne Wise throwing home hopelessly and allowing Salvador Perez run to 2nd was a nice little addition.
Things Would Be Different If...
Royals mistakes played an enormous factor in keeping this one close. Mike Moustakas ran Kansas City out of a bases loaded situation in the 2nd when he tried to score from second-base on an infield single. Johnny Giovatella erased his own leadoff single in the 3rd by trying to make it a leadoff double, and Eric Hosmer' second goof of the day accounted for the only two White Sox runs.
Being completely immolated by the Royals over the weekend while the top end of the lineup battles injuries was no fun at all, but at least the Tigers' struggles mean that no more than one game was lost in the standings.
A stretch of moldering, miserable play can mean no more than one bad weekend (see the last Detroit series), the creation of some sort of mental block toward playing in Kansas City (see Minnesota 2006-2010), or just a problem with not being able to hit without De Aza and Youkilis getting on base regularly.
The first option would be nice, the third is most likely, and the second will be bandied about until its proven wrong.
Team Record: 65-55, 1.5 games up