CHICAGO -- Here's the good news for the White Sox coming off a 7-2 loss to the Royals on Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
They remain 3 1/2 games behind the American League Central-leading Tigers, who were shut out at home by the Twins.
Now for the not so great news, which concerns the Royals' eighth win in their past nine games on the South Side of Chicago.
In the ever-changing world that is the rest of the division behind the struggling frontrunners, where two or three games can cause anywhere from a partial to complete rearrangement, this setback in the weekend series opener dropped the White Sox into a tie with Cleveland for fourth place or last place, depending on one's view. It was the team's second straight loss after beating the Tigers in the first two games of this homestand.
Kansas City (34-32) took full control of this game before the White Sox (33-35) even came to the plate, scoring five runs on six hits in the first inning off of Jose Quintana (3-7).
"I wanted to throw good pitches, but I missed a lot with location," Quintana said of the first. "A little bit high, too. The first inning was a terrible inning for me."
"We just couldn't get out of it," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of Quintana, who fanned six over his six innings but has allowed 10 earned runs on 15 hits over his past 10 1/3 innings covering two starts. "They were swinging it. I haven't looked at it, but Q just stubbed his foot in that first inning."
Nori Aoki, Omar Infante, Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler opened the game with singles, scoring two runs. Alex Gordon followed with a run-scoring double, putting runners on second and third with nobody out.
Quintana managed to strike out Salvador Perez, but Lorenzo Cain picked up his teammate by ripping a hanging curve into the left-field corner to bring home two more. To Quintana's credit, the southpaw settled down over the next five innings.
Following an Aoki double leading off the second, Quintana retired 15 of 17 before he was replaced by Scott Carroll after 110 pitches.
"They found some holes with a couple, missed spots on a few. Just kind of snowballed quickly," White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers said of the first inning. "But to be honest with you, after that I thought he did a pretty decent job."
Even with Quintana putting the White Sox in this early hole, the offense had plenty of chances to climb out against Jeremy Guthrie (3-6).
Guthrie struck out nine over 5 2/3 innings and 110 pitches, but the White Sox put at least one runner on base in five of the six innings they faced him. Adam Eaton singled and Gordon Beckham walked to start the bottom of the first, with Jose Abreu eventually driving in the inning's lone run on a sacrifice fly.
Singles from Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo and a walk to Alejandro De Aza loaded the bases with nobody out in the second. One out later, Guthrie walked Eaton to force home the White Sox second run. But Beckham struck out and Conor Gillaspie flied out to end the rally.
"He was effectively wild I would say," said Eaton, who was on base five times via two singles and three walks. "It seemed like he was throwing harder tonight -- and a nice hard changeup he was throwing to a lot of guys. I feel like when he's not on his best, we need to have a better showing, but credit their team to jump on us early and keep us down."
"Just get him some runs; that's all we wanted to do," Royals manager Ned Yost said of the support for Guthrie, who had an 11-start winless streak entering Friday. "This is probably the worst start that he's had during this whole streak. He's been really, really efficient, really commanding his pitches well. The first three innings he made big pitches when he needed to, to limit the damage, which was huge."
Ventura's crew finished 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11, including two in the ninth against reliever Tim Collins. In this currently crazy world that is the AL Central, though, a win for the White Sox on Saturday afternoon could take them from last to third.
"It's good baseball. Definitely good baseball," Eaton said. "It shows the depth of the division. And we are excited to be in the mix, and we continue to work hard and hopefully we can say that in September."
"Yeah, I expect it to continue on. I expect us to stay in there and keep playing good ball," Flowers said. "It just wasn't in the cards for us today. As long as we're continuing to give the effort throughout entire games, I'm going to bet on us."