White Sox fall short after rallying in eighth inning
Chicago battles after being stymied by Chen, but can't hold off Royals
KANSAS CITY -- The White Sox did not lose to Bruce Chen, and the Royals did not lose to John Danks during Saturday's matchup at Kauffman Stadium.
These results stand as minor accomplishments for both teams, considering the dominance shown by each pitcher over the respective opposition.
It was the White Sox bullpen and Salvador Perez that decided this 4-3 Kansas City victory before 21,463, marking a third straight setback for the South Siders after two victories to open the season. Perez doubled home Alex Gordon with the game-winner off Maikel Cleto in the eighth, after Alex Gordon reached via a two-out double off losing pitcher Scott Downs.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura had the option to walk Perez intentionally, giving the Royals' hottest hitter a free pass with first-base open. Ventura then could have put the left-handed throwing Downs against the left-handed hitting Mike Moustakas, who is 0-for-15 to start the season.
"You could do that, but you start putting more guys on base and it just becomes different," said Ventura of facing Perez, who has seven hits and 11 total bases over his first 13 at-bats. "You trust Cleto going out there and you give credit to Perez."
"He's usually doing damage so I was ready to get moving because I knew in that kind of situation, he's going to come through and I was going to do everything I can to get to home plate," said Gordon of Perez. "So I was ready to go."
Trailing 3-1 in the eighth, the White Sox put together a quick rally against Royals setup man Wade Davis, who still picked up the victory despite blowing the save. Marcus Semien singled, Jose Abreu was hit by a pitch and Dayan Viciedo walked to load the bases, followed by Conor Gillaspie's run-scoring single and Paul Konerko's game-tying sacrifice fly.
This eighth-inning damage could have been worse if not for Nori Aoki's running, lunging catch in right to take away extra bases and two RBIs from Alexei Ramirez, who is 8-for-18 in the team's first five games.
If nothing else, the White Sox latest late comeback took Danks off the hook in a game he didn't deserve to lose. His 6-0 record against the Royals and 4-0 record at Kauffman Stadium stays unblemished, as he yielded three runs on five hits and four walks over seven innings, while striking out six.
Danks entered the seventh with 105 pitches but needed only 10 more for a perfect seventh after lobbying Ventura for one more inning.
"I had Coop [White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper] in my corner. We were fighting hard," said a smiling Danks of the seventh. "Robin makes the final decision but he asked me if I felt OK and I did. I wanted to make sure it was a clean inning because I was sure I had a short leash there.
"Obviously four walks isn't acceptable. But that's something to build on, so I'm excited to go out there and have a decent game. It was just easier to make the ball do something and throw it where I wanted to. It was fun."
Saturday's season debut would have been more fun for Danks if the White Sox had won. But the White Sox haven't won much against Chen over the past four seasons.
Chen is not exactly known for his overpowering stuff, unless he's pitching against the White Sox. Factoring in the one unearned run allowed over 6 1/3 innings Saturday, the left-hander has posted a 7-2 record with a 2.62 ERA over his last 14 starts against the White Sox dating back to Sept. 10, 2010.
The White Sox actually picked up singles from Adam Eaton and Abreu in the first inning to put runners on first and second with one out. But Chen struck out Viciedo and Gillaspie to end the frame, starting a stretch of four straight strikeouts for the Royals starter, who finished with seven and without a walk.
"Honestly it's proof to the testament that you don't have to throw 95 to get guys out," said Gillaspie of Chen. "He makes very few mistakes, and he relies on guys that just can't wait for the mistakes. He's really effective.
"I'm not sure how he does against other teams, but if he pitches like he did today… We're just not used to seeing low 80s, and it's very effective."
Kansas City did not have a hit until the fourth and then picked up four straight singles to start the inning. Billy Butler drove home one run, and consecutive walks to Perez and Moustakas forced home another in the two-run frame.
Eaton accounted for the White Sox lone run off of Chen with a run-scoring groundout in the fifth, following Ramirez's single and Moustakas' two-base error on Adrian Nieto's grounder to put runners at second and third with nobody out. Nieto made his first Major League start, joining fellow native Cubans Ramirez, Viciedo and Abreu in the same lineup.
Winning remains the name of the game for the reshaped White Sox. There's no guessing as to how many victories they will pick up in '14, but a fourth straight late comeback showed the team's fight is there to make it happen.
"We don't feel like we are ever out of a game," Danks said. "I think it's going to be a fun summer. We are going to play hard and this team has a lot of fight in them. The ball is going to bounce our way. We are going to do everything we can to win ballgames."