KANSAS CITY -- Win one, lose one. That type of holding pattern can’t go on indefinitely if the White Sox are going to navigate the traffic at the top of the American League Central.
For the fourth time in a week, Chicago had an opportunity to move three games over .500. Once again, though, the White Sox couldn’t do it as the Royals broke open a tight game late and went on to capture an 8-3 ballgame on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
It was looking good for the White Sox in the sixth when they grabbed a 3-1 lead for starter Johnny Cueto, thanks in part to a two-run error by Kansas City second baseman Michael Massey on what could have been an inning-ending double play.
But Chicago couldn’t maintain that momentum as Kansas City tied it with two runs in the sixth and went ahead for good in the seventh when MJ Melendez homered off Jake Diekman in a lefty-on-lefty matchup.
The familiar refrain has been why the White Sox seem to be stuck in neutral. But the Twins and Guardians have been in a similar situation, and it remains to be seen who will ultimately take charge in the AL Central.
White Sox manager Tony La Russa remains optimistic his team will be the ones to do that.
“I think so,” La Russa said. “I know it’s in here. If we didn’t have that, we would have been buried a long time ago. The fact that we’re still clawing and fighting tells you we can make something good happen that’s consistent.”
Trailing 1-0, the White Sox loaded the bases in the sixth with one out when Gavin Sheets hit a hard ground ball right at Massey. When the ball eluded the second baseman and rolled into the outfield, two runs scored and another runner reached third. With two outs, Josh Harrison came through with an RBI single off Royals starter Kris Bubic to give Cueto a two-run lead.
But it all started to go sour for the White Sox in the bottom of the inning. Bobby Witt Jr. hit a high chopper that third baseman Yoán Moncada fielded with momentum going toward first, but not enough to get the ball out of his glove quickly as Witt beat it out.
Salvador Perez doubled in a run, went to third on Moncada’s throwing error on Hunter Dozier’s bouncer and scored the tying run when Massey delivered a two-out RBI single on a 3-2 pitch.
Asked what he thinks it will take for the White Sox to get rolling, Cueto said through a translator: “We need to fight. We need to show the fight. We need to show the fire we have, if we have any.”
Melendez's homer off Diekman one inning later was all that Kansas City would need. But the Royals ran away with it by adding four more runs in the eighth, putting themselves in position to take three of four if they can win the series finale on Thursday afternoon.
“They pitched good against us,” La Russa said, "but we had a chance to win that game.”