Chicago If the Chicago White Sox don’t win the AL Central, they’ll look back upon their inability to handle the last-place Kansas City Royals.
“It is frustrating, disheartening,” White Sox captain Paul Konerko said Tuesday night after his team lost to Kansas City for the seventh time this season. The 5-4 defeat dropped Chicago three games behind first-place Detroit.
“All you can do is keep grinding,” Konerko said. “With the amount of time left, you can overcome that. But if you start thinking about what could have been ... ”
Billy Butler doubled three times, had two RBIs and scored the go-ahead run on Alberto Callaspo’s fifth-inning single for the Royals, who are 7-7 against the White Sox — and 40-65 against the rest of the major leagues.
Kansas City also got a two-run homer from John Buck and a big boost from Robinson Tejada, who pitched three dominant innings in relief of Gil Meche.
Butler became the first player this season to have three doubles in each of three games. He also did it on July 8 and Aug. 8. The 23-year-old first baseman has 41 doubles, second most in the majors.
“Billy always looks like he’s in control at the plate,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said. “I think his power is going to keep developing. Forty-something doubles with six weeks left is pretty impressive.”
All three of Tuesday’s doubles came off Freddy Garcia, who blew a 4-1 lead in his return to the team he helped win the 2005 World Series.
Garcia (0-1), whose Game 4 victory completed the Series sweep of Houston, allowed five runs on seven hits in 41⁄3 innings in his season debut. Though the 32-year-old right-hander worked slowly, repeatedly fell behind batters and topped out at 90 mph, manager Ozzie Guillen said he was “satisfied.”
“That first game out, it’s not easy,” Guillen said. “He handled it real well. He left a couple pitches up in the strike zone but besides that, I liked what I saw.”
Injured for most of the last 21⁄2 years after the White Sox traded him to Philadelphia, Garcia rejoined the organization June 8 after the New York Mets cut him.
He is competing against Jose Contreras, another member of the stellar 2005 rotation, to be the No. 5 starter when newcomer Jake Peavy comes off the disabled list next week. Contreras, scheduled to start Wednesday’s series finale, is 0-4 with a 7.62 ERA in his last six outings.
A.J. Pierzynski’s first-inning single put the White Sox up 1-0. After the Royals tied it in the third on Butler’s second double, Chicago went ahead 4-1 in the bottom of the inning when Konerko homered and Carlos Quentin added a two-run shot.
Garcia promptly surrendered Buck’s homer in the fourth to make it 4-3. In the fifth, Willie Bloomquist singled and scored on Butler’s third double, chasing Garcia. Reliever Randy Williams gave up Callaspo’s RBI single.
Bloomquist, the Royals’ right fielder, cut down Chicago’s bid for a tying run in the last of the fifth, throwing Quentin out at the plate.
Meche (6-9) labored through five innings, allowing four runs on eight hits and five walks.
“He was on the ropes,” Konerko said. “We had a chance to knock him out and we didn’t do it.”
Tejada then struck out five while allowing no hits and one walk over the next three innings before Joakim Soria worked a scoreless ninth for his 20th save in 22 opportunities.
“You never know which Tejada you’re getting,” Hillman said of the hard-throwing reliever, who threw six pitches, all balls, in his previous outing. “I’m glad we got the guy we got today.”