CHICAGO -- Take the Kansas City Royals' recent dominance over the American League Central front-runners, mix in Addison Reed's struggles in non-save situations and Friday night's 7-5 loss for the White Sox before 26,660 at U.S. Cellular Field is what comes about.
The Kansas City victory marks its ninth straight over the Tigers and White Sox (74-63), with six of those coming against the South Siders. There was no overlooking of the Royals (62-76) by the White Sox before this series began, but with a four-game set beginning Monday against Detroit, Robin Ventura's crew needs to fight hard not to have its momentum sapped by the division's rising third-place team.
"I guess we're going to try to shake things up a bit," said Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain, who hit two homers on Friday, including the game-winner in the ninth. "We're going to finish the season strong regardless of what the standings look like right now. We're going to try to go at them and beat them each and every night."
"If they get solid starting pitching, they've always had a really good bullpen and they've always been able to swing the bats," said White Sox captain Paul Konerko of the Royals. "Of late, they've been really good pitching, starting-wise, so they're just as formidable as anybody."
Formidable enough to take care of Reed (3-2) with the game tied on Friday.
Johnny Giavotella started the ninth with a single to left, and Cain followed with a 409-foot blast to left-center on a 1-1 pitch. Reed has been as steady as any veteran closer this season, with 25 saves in 29 chances, not to mention a 3.25 ERA in that scenario. But in his 21 2/3 innings covering non-save situations like Friday's outing, the rookie's ERA checks in at 6.23.
Ventura doesn't believe Reed is experiencing any sort of late-season rookie fatigue, and Reed said that he feels great without an ounce of pain.
"Things just aren't working out," Reed said. "My mindset doesn't change when I'm out there in a non-save situation. Things just haven't been going my way. It has nothing to do with non-save situations, save situations, anything like that."
This game played fairly evenly for the first six innings, with the ineffectiveness of starting pitchers Luis Mendoza and Francisco Liriano preventing either squad from taking control.
It was the long ball that did in Mendoza, who gave up five runs on 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings, striking out three and walking one. A.J. Pierzynski hit his 25th home run leading off the fourth, which tied the game at 2 and stands as the most among Major League catchers, and Dewayne Wise's leadoff homer in the fifth tied the game at 3.
Alexei Ramirez took his turn in the sixth, after Dayan Viciedo lined a single to left to start the frame. The shortstop connected on a 1-0 pitch for his ninth homer and tied the game yet again at 5.
Liriano was wild in his eighth start for the White Sox. He allowed two runs in the second on Billy Butler's single and Salvador Perez's line drive homer and then gave up the lead in the fifth on Cain's solo shot.
But Liriano's sixth inning was the most troubling. After the White Sox had rallied, Liriano proceeded to walk Perez and Mike Moustakas to start a two-run, go-ahead rally. Both runs were charged to Liriano, although Jeff Francoeur's double and Eric Hosmer's sacrifice fly came off Nate Jones.
In five-plus innings, Liriano walked four and gave up five runs on 91 pitches. He has issued 15 free passes over his last 14 innings pitched.
"I'm trying to do the best I can. I just feel like I'm not doing my job right now," Liriano said. "I tried to throw the ball over the plate [in the sixth] and it was running everywhere. It's kind of frustrating."
There were a number of chances for the White Sox to score other than the home runs. In the first, after bringing in one on Konerko's single, the White Sox loaded the bases with one out. But Pierzynski popped out to Giavotella and Viciedo grounded into a fielder's choice.
Wise started the third with a triple. He stayed at third on Konerko's short fly to right and then was nailed at home on Rios' popout to Giavotella. The infield was in and Giavotella caught the ball with his back to the infield, but made a perfect throw home to easily catch Wise.
Pierzynski singled to open the eighth against reliever Aaron Crow, who then hit Viciedo with a pitch. But the hard-throwing Kelvin Herrera entered and after Ramirez bunted over both runners, he struck out Gordon Beckham with a 100-mph fastball and retired Jose Lopez on a popup to third. Lopez came to the plate with the bases loaded after Alejandro De Aza was walked intentionally.
Left-handed-hitting Dan Johnson, who struck out looking against Greg Holland (12th save) to end the game, could have been used for Beckham or Lopez. But Ventura stuck with his starters with the game on the line.
Despite leaving 10 stranded, raising that total to 40 left on base over the last five games, the White Sox maintained a one-game lead over the Tigers, who lost a 3-2 decision to the Angels. They will have to be better Saturday against a Royals team appearing to be as good as the best in the AL Central.
"We can get them on, but we are having problems getting them in," Ventura said. "It's one of those games where you had plenty of opportunities and don't knock them in. Then you give them opportunities by giving them free baserunners."