Royals stymied by White Sox
Duckworth solid in loss, final home game of season
KANSAS CITY -- Against John Danks, the Royals could only fire blanks.
That was the story on Sunday as Kansas City dropped the curtain on Kauffman Stadium, circa 1973, with a 3-0 loss to the White Sox. When baseball is next played at Kauffman in the spring of 2009, a $250,000 facelift will have essentially been completed. The Royals will just have to hope they swing the bats better in the new-look "K" than they did in the final home game of 2008.
With his team trying to hold off Minnesota in the American League Central race, Danks was masterful. The Chicago left-hander had a three-hitter through seven innings and left after allowing a bloop single to Alberto Callaspo leading off the eighth. Matt Thornton and Bobby Jenks finished the job in style to send the White Sox on to Minnesota with a 2 1/2-game lead in the division.
"He pretty much had the full package," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "The different pitches that he brings -- the velocity, the deceptiveness -- he had real good late life on his pitches. Today was just one of those days when you tip your hat."
The Royals received a strong outing from right-hander Brandon Duckworth, but Danks was just a little better. Duckworth gave up a run in the first only because the White Sox went first-to-third on a single to left and scored on a popup sacrifice fly that was caught by shortstop Mike Aviles in short left field.
Paul Konerko provided the other two runs with a homer that the first baseman said "got in the jet stream" as it traveled high in the air to left-center.
"I thought [Duckworth] was outstanding," Hillman said. "That run in the first inning ... if we're more aggressive, I know they don't score that run. Then he had one elevated fastball out over the plate to a guy who has a history of hitting home runs."
The Royals had hoped to give their fans one final positive impression to take into the offseason, but Danks had other plans.
"We're going to continue to make progress," Hillman said. "We all know what this fan base can be here."
The Royals have received some optimistic signs regarding their starting pitching in September and Duckworth fit into that trend on Sunday.
Duckworth allowed just five hits in his six-plus innings.
"All you can do is go out there and try to match their guy pitch for pitch," Duckworth said. "We were right there, but we just couldn't muster anything up. He was even better today."
Konerko is hitting just .243, but has 18 homers. Four of those long balls have come against the Royals.
"It was a slider that didn't slide," Duckworth said. "It was a pitch that just didn't have any bite to it. He battled me and fouled off some really good pitches. They have a solid lineup and one bad pitch can cost you at any time."
The victory for Danks broke a five-game winless streak. His last win came on Aug. 16 at Oakland. But the White Sox had a hint that Danks was getting it all together when he finished with six shutout innings in his last start before facing the Royals.
With the dearth of offense for Kansas City, it took a defensive play by the Royals to draw the biggest cheer of the game.
In the ninth inning, third baseman Alex Gordon leaned over the White Sox dugout for a highlight-reel catch on Konerko's foul popup. By then, however, Chicago was in cruise control.
The Royals have an off-day on Thursday, so Duckworth isn't sure if he'll get another start. But whether he's starting or relieving, Duckworth would like one more opportunity to build on recent performances. Kansas City will end the season with a three-game series at Detroit and a three-game series at Minnesota.
"I've felt really comfortable lately," said Duckworth, who warmed up for the White Sox by allowing just two runs over six innings in his Sept. 16 start against Seattle. "This month is going by way too fast."
Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.