Royals fall in finale
Thomson wild in second start; unlucky bounce proves costly
KANSAS CITY -- John Thomson likes to work fast, get ahead of hitters, pitch to contact and make the defense do the work. That worked to perfection six days ago against the Angels.
It wasn't the case Sunday against the White Sox.
In his second start as a Royal, Thomson labored through 3 2/3 innings and took the loss in a 3-1 defeat at Kauffman Stadium. Thomson pitched around trouble nearly the entire game, permitting 10 baserunners. Helped by some key pitches in clutch situations and a little luck, Thomson allowed only two runs.
But it still wasn't a pleasant afternoon for the right-hander.
"That's not me," Thomson said. "I am not that type of pitcher. I don't like to nibble and get my pitch count up. It was more or less me getting behind in the count. It was location. I wasn't getting strike one early in the count. I was getting ball one and ball two."
The Royals' offense didn't have a fine effort either, scoring just one run for the second straight game. It was the fewest runs the team has scored in back-to-back games since June 4-5 against the Rays. They missed several chances, including one with the bases loaded in the seventh.
"We just weren't able to do anything situationally," manager Buddy Bell said. "It's a problem that we have all year. Hopefully, the second half will be better with our situational hitting."
Thomson, though, put the team in an early hole. Last Monday, he baffled the high-octane Angels, tossing seven innings of two-run ball. He didn't walk a batter, didn't strikeout anyone and threw just 81 pitches. It was a different story against the White Sox, the worst offense in the American League.
"I would much rather have the outing that I had in Anaheim," Thomson said. "I was fighting an uphill battle all day to find my location and to find my rhythm. I threw more sinkers than offspeed pitches today. I know that if I am having a little trouble with my location than I have a little movement on the ball [and] I have a better chance of getting guys out. That didn't happen today."
Thomson pitched with men in scoring position in the first three innings, including a bases loaded situation in the first. With one out, A.J. Pierzynski missed a grand slam by a few feet. Thomson, though, rebounded to strike out Pierzynski and Tadahito Iguchi to end the threat.
He also worked around trouble in the second and third before permitting two runs in the fourth. Jimmy Gobble relieved Thomson after 87 pitches, 51 for strikes. Thomson also walked three batters -- his most in a game since July 4, 2006.
"I think he was up with everything," Bell said. "He didn't throw many breaking balls. His stuff was still OK. He competed -- he made some pitches when he had to. With us not scoring any runs, his outing is probably is more exaggerated than anything else."
Exaggerated by a Royals' offense that had trouble with runners in scoring position the entire game. In the past month, KC has seen their offense awaken behind a barrage of clutch hits and late-inning RBI.
That wasn't the case against Jon Garland, the Royals' nemesis. Garland delivered seven innings of one-run ball. Painting the corners effectively, the right-hander improved to 15-5 lifetime and 8-1 in his last 11 starts against KC.
"A lot of it had to do with Garland," Bell said. "When Garland is on, he is going to make it tough on anybody. I don't think he was in the middle of the plate hardly ever. We didn't get many opportunities but when we did, we didn't make it easy on us because we were a little more overanxious to begin with."
No opportunity for the Royals was better than the seventh. With bases loaded and two outs, Esteban German battled Garland to a full count. German, the hottest hitter for the Royals this series (5-for-12), ripped a line drive up the middle.
The ball seemed headed for center field and a game-tying two-run single, but the ball glanced off Garland. Alex Cintron gloved the ball in front of second base and his throw beat German by half a step.
"Alex stayed right on it and made a great play for me," Garland said. "Huge, I think if he's safe, two score right there. I didn't happen to turn and see Pena to see if going home. I imagine he would. That's a tie ballgame right there."
Instead, it meant a loss for the Royals -- and Thomson.
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.