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The losing streak ended, but that didn’t quite mean the Kansas City Royals were ready to start a winning streak.
Instead, they split the doubleheader with the Chicago White Sox on Friday. Royals pitcher Jakob Junis’ first start of May wasn’t the type of stellar performance he’d regularly doled out prior to taking up residency in the bullpen.
Junis ran into trouble with a few missed locations in the second inning and the Royals couldn’t overcome the deficit in a 3-1 loss in a 7-inning game at Guaranteed Rate Field in the second game of the doubleheader.
The teams will continue their three-day, four-game series on Saturday.
Junis, who pitched an inning of relief on Wednesday out of the bullpen, allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits in 1 1/3 innings. He didn’t walk a batter, and he struck out one.
“There really wasn’t a clear-cut pitch limit today,” Junis said. “I was really just going by feel and seeing what happened and took kind of an inning-by-inning basis type of deal.”
Carlos Santana’s solo home run in the third inning, his seventh of the season, gave the Royals (17-21) their lone run of the game. Santana served as the designated hitter after having tweaked his hip while running the bases in the first game.
Junis’ last start before he moved to the bullpen came on April 27, against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings in a 2-1 loss.
In four starts this season prior to Friday, Junis posted a 3.80 ERA with a 1-1 record, a 1.17 WHIP and a .231 opponent’s batting average.
Friday night, the White Sox hit Junis’ mistakes hard, and forced him out of the game in the second inning of this truncated contest. Junis gave up four hits, and all were for extra bases.
He worked around a two-out double by Yoan Moncada in the first inning. He struck out rookie hitting machine Yermin Mercedes on a called third strike to end the inning.
The White Sox started the second inning with a double off the top of the right-field wall by Adam Eaton, a 421-foot two-run homer by Andrew Vaughn and another double into the right-center field gap by Zack Collins.
“I totally missed my spot with Vaughn, trying to go away,” Junis said. “It ran back middle, middle-in. Eaton, the at-bat before, I tried to go up and in. I left it down and in, into his swing path and he took advantage of that too. I just couldn’t dial-in my location when I needed it. Getting behind in the count, that’s a recipe for disaster with me. I’ve got to stay ahead and stay on the attack.”
After former Royal Billy Hamilton lined out to first base for the first out of the second inning, Royals manager Mike Matheny turned the game over to the bullpen with two runs having scored and two men on base.
“I thought he did a pretty nice job early on of working through a little bit there with the double that put him in a tough spot,” Matheny said. “The lead double in that second inning kind of snowballed. He only had one day off, so we were just trying to see what we could get from him after the 17 (pitches) that he threw in Detroit. We needed to just try and get the ball rolling. We knew it was going to be a number of guys who had to contribute today.”
Relievers Tyler Zuber and Jake Brentz recorded a strikeout and a walk apiece. Brentz’s walk came with the bases loaded and forced in the third White Sox run. The third run was unearned as a fielding error by third baseman Hanser Alberto helped extend the inning.
Santana’s solo home run in the top of the third inning gave the Royals their only run. He smashed a 97 mph 1-2 fastball from White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech, a former highly-touted pitching prospect, to right-center field for his seventh round-tripper of the season.
Santana said he’s always thinking about the fastball, especially after his first at-bat. Kopech followed up the off-speed or breaking pitches in the first at-bat with his high-velocity fastball. So when Kopech followed up a changeup with the big four-seam fastball, Santana was ready.
“He has a great arm,” Santana said. “He throws 97, 95, around (there). I tried to have a good approach and to make good contact.”
Relievers Wade Davis, Greg Holland and Ervin Santana all pitched an inning of scoreless relief for the Royals.
The Royals had just four hits, and they did not have more than one hit in any inning.