CHICAGO -- The outcome of Kansas City's 9-1 Mother's Day victory over the White Sox before 22,636 at U.S. Cellular Field will be blamed on the South Siders' bullpen, which turned a one-run lead into an eight-run deficit over the last three innings.
But this series loss to the struggling Royals (13-20) pointed up a few other issues of serious concern for the White Sox (16-19).
For openers, and closers if it doesn't improve, the White Sox offense continues to be inconsistent. Manager Robin Ventura's team slipped to 1-14 when scoring three runs or fewer and produced only one run in the last two games against Royals pitchers, who wouldn't exactly be mentioned with Justin Verlander or CC Sabathia.
Danny Duffy, the Royals' prized pitching prospect, left after facing three batters on Sunday with a tight pitching elbow. The contest was turned over to Luis Mendoza (2-2), who yielded just one run over his 5 2/3 innings of relief.
"Mendoza, he did a pretty good job," said White Sox right fielder Alex Rios, who finished the afternoon at 1-for-4. "He came into the game without knowing that he was going to pitch so many innings, and he stopped us, and that was impressive."
"That didn't feel like it was going to be a 9-1 game going into the seventh inning down, 1-0," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "So Mendy did a great job of getting us to the back end of the bullpen, where we can mix and match in the eighth inning and get through it."
Paul Konerko's run-scoring single in the third brought home the White Sox only run over the past 18 innings, but there were more chances to score. Make that, plenty more chances to score, with the White Sox being retired in order just once all afternoon.
Rios ended the third with a double-play grounder, erasing a first-and-second, one-out situation, and Mendoza stranded runners on second and third in the fourth when he made a great stab of Brent Lillibridge's hard-hit grounder back to the mound. The next big chance came in the eighth, with the Royals leading by a 3-1 margin, but the White Sox having two runners on and two out. A.J. Pierzynski, mired in a 7-for-46 slump, pinch-hit for Tyler Flowers against left-handed reliever Tim Collins and grounded out to first baseman Eric Hosmer to end the threat.
Kansas City exploded for six ninth-inning runs charged to Addison Reed, whose streak of consecutive scoreless games to start a season ended at a franchise rookie record 13. Reed's ERA jumped from 0.00 to 5.23.
There wasn't much margin for pitching error with the White Sox stranding 10 and finishing 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
"We had a couple of chances to get some guys in," Rios said. "I had a couple myself and we didn't do what we had to do. The game slipped away from us."
"Of course you'd love to have 10 runs a game, but that's not reality," said White Sox starter Philip Humber, who finished with a no-decision after allowing one run on four hits over 6 2/3 innings. "Whether we're scoring a lot of runs or we're not, our job is trying to keep zeroes coming on the scoreboard."
Humber turned in his best effort since the perfect game in Seattle on April 21. The right-hander had allowed 20 earned runs on 21 hits over his last 13 1/3 innings, but fanned seven and walked three during Sunday's quality start.
When Humber left with Alcides Escobar on first and two out in the seventh, giving way to left-handed reliever Matt Thornton to face left-handed hitting Jarrod Dyson, Chris Getz and Alex Gordon, the White Sox still were clinging to a 1-0 lead. Dyson drew a walk, both runners moved up on a wild pitch and then pinch-hitter Johnny Giavotella lined a 1-2 pitch down the right-field line for a two-run double to put the Royals in control.
Jeff Francoeur added a solo homer in the eighth, on a 1-2 pitch from Nate Jones, increasing the lead to two. It was Francoeur's first homer of the season, but it was Giavotella's hit that altered the game's direction.
"I'll be honest, our dugout was dead. We hadn't got close to Humber," said Francoeur of Giavotella's clutch double. "You see Humber threw that perfect game and then he has two starts where he's not doing it, and then today his slider was as good as I've ever seen it.
"Like I said, we were dead and Gio put together a huge at-bat against a guy who's not easy to hit. I thought that kind of livened us up, and we were able to relax and have some good swings."
Sunday's setback dropped the White Sox to 0-5-1 in their last six series. They stayed 2 1/2 games behind the Indians in the American League Central standings, but won't contend with this lack of series consistency.
A 6-11 record at home and a break-even 9-9 ledger against the division, with a 5-8 mark in the last 13, won't help the cause either. Ultimately, the White Sox need to hit and hit with the game on the line, something that escaped them before the bullpen did Sunday.
"Unfortunately we put ourselves in a spot where we play three, four, five games bad in a row but we seem to respond well when we do that," Konerko said. "Obviously we wish we didn't do that as much, but we seem to be able to cut a bad game or a bad series away pretty quick. We'll have to do that again here, bounce back and get after it [Monday] night [at home against Detroit]."