A week into May the Royals have given back much of what they built in April.
They had constructed baseball’s best record in the first month, but after Friday’s 3-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium the Royals have dropped six straight and stand one game over .500 (16-15).
“There have been a lot of conversations about trusting what we’ve seen so far,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “And it’s going to get better if they continue to show the kind of fight they did at the end.”
That fight was loading the bases and giving the largest Kauffman Stadium crowd of the season (16,011) something to cheer about before the post-game fireworks started.
Salvador Perez doubled to open the inning off White Sox closer Liam Hendriks, and Jorge Soler reached on catcher’s interference.
Hendriks struck out Hunter Dozier and pinch-hitter Ryan O’Hearn, but Michael A. Taylor’s infield single loaded the bases.
That brought up slumping Nicky Lopez, arriving to the batter’s box with one hit in his previous 27 at-bats. The Royals’ only pinch-hitting option, Jarrod Dyson, would have left them without a shortstop had the game gone into extra innings.
Lopez popped to short center with shortstop Tim Anderson making the play, and the Royals’ stretch of consecutive scoreless innings was extended to 22.
Royals besides Perez could do little with White Sox starter Carlos Rodon, who improved to 5-0. The White Sox lefty who tossed a no-hitter earlier this season, dazzled with six scoreless innings. He surrendered five singles and allowed no more than two Royals to reach in any inning. He recorded eight of the 13 strikeouts of Royals hitters.
Only Perez had Rodon figured out. Perez collected singles in each of his first three plate appearances. Rodon hadn’t given up more than three hits in any of his four previous starts.
Add the ninth inning double and Perez finished with his second four-hit game this season.
“We played hard to last out,” Perez said. “We come in tomorrow, play hard and see what happens. That’s all we can do. Find a way.”
Keller was sharp early and that’s progress. He struck out the side in the first and retired 13 of the first 14. In his first six starts this season, Keller had surrendered 23 runs and owned an ERA of 8.28 in the first three innings.
“I felt good in the bullpen and I was just trying to bring the bullpen out there, and go after guys” Keller said.
But the first hit Keller gave up was a homer. Zack Collins drove a 1-2 pitch over the center-field wall, 430 feet, for the game’s first run.
The White Sox added two in the sixth when Adam Eaton broke an 0-for-20 streak with an RBI single and Jose Abreu followed with a double in the gap..
Keller finished the sixth as Dozier made a nice sliding catch of Yermin Mercedes’ drive in the corner in right field.
But it all came against the team that has tormented the Royals for two seasons. Against everyone else the Royals are 40-38 in 2020 and 2021. Against the White Sox they’re 2-11.
The Royals will get another chance against the White Sox on Saturday, with first pitch scheduled for 6:10 p.m.