Kansas City Royals can’t hold early lead as Carlos Hernández’s struggles continue

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Despite some early struggles by one of their young and inexperienced starting pitchers in Carlos Hernández, the Kansas City Royals still held a slight edge midway through their series finale on Thursday afternoon.

However, the Royals’ offense that burst out of the gate with four of the game’s first five runs didn’t score in the final six innings of a 7-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox in the conclusion of their five-game, four-day series in front of an announced 11,784 at Kauffman Stadium.

The White Sox clinched the series win after losing two in a row. The Royals hadn’t lost a series to the White Sox since May 7-9, 2021, snapping a five-series unbeaten streak (4-0-1) against their AL Central rival.

Thursday’s game, a day game following a night game, marked the 14th game in 12 days for the Royals (14-23), a stretch that included two doubleheaders and a three-city road trip. They still have five more games before a scheduled day off.

Asked if the schedule might have caught up with the Royals in the late innings Thursday, infielder/outfielder Hunter Dozier said, “I think it’s just baseball. They put together good at-bats. They did a good job getting those guys in, and we just couldn’t find a way to score at the end.”

Hernández, who did not factor in the decision, didn’t record an out in the fourth inning before the bullpen took over, but the Royals managed to hold a 4-3 lead through five innings.

Ronald Bolaños worked out of a two-on, no-out situation after relieving Hernández, who allowed three runs, five hits and five walks in three innings. He also struck out three.

But Bolaños gave up the tying run in the sixth inning on Luis Robert’s RBI single, and the White Sox (19-19) added another in the seventh against left-handed reliever Gabe Speier and two more in the eighth on Robert’s two-run home run off of Dylan Coleman.

“It was going to be a dogfight, we knew that,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “Knowing that we were really short in the pen too. We just didn’t have many guys that were able to go. We were just going to have to try and scrap our way through it and, hopefully, the offense would keep coming and be resilient.

“I thought Ronald did a nice job. We had to have a couple other guys come through too. Unfortunately, they got the big hit when they needed it.”

The Royals got the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but White Sox closer Liam Hendriks (who appeared in six games for the Royals in 2014) kept them off the board to earn his 12th save of the season.

“I know the bullpen is feeling it right now,” Matheny said. “We’ve got to get some long, deep starts to take care of some of those arms.”

Dozier went 3 for 4 with 3 RBIs and crushed his fourth home run of the season. Nicky Lopez doubled and drove in a run. Bobby Witt Jr. and Andrew Benintendi also had doubles.

Dozier, Witt key to fast start

The Royals snatched a two-run lead in the first inning on Dozier’s fourth homer of the season.

A video challenge overturned a double play that would’ve ended the inning. Instead, Witt was ruled to have beaten out the throw to first base after a force out at second. That brought Dozier to the plate with two outs and Witt on first.

“That’s big,” Dozier said of Witt beating out a double play. “That just shows the hustle he has. I mean, he’s fast. It’s fun to watch him play. But it was great hustle by him.”

After multiple pickoff attempts at first base, White Sox starter Vince Velasquez threw a 1-0 fastball to Dozier over the inside corner. Dozier turned on it and lined it into the left field stands.

The Royals scored in each of the first three innings.

They added a run in the second when Kyle Isbel reached on an infield single, stole second and scored on a two-out hustle double by Lopez.

Then in the third, Witt doubled down the left field line and scored on a blistering RBI single Dozier sent into left field.

The Royals will begin a weekend series with the Minnesota Twins on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium. Left-hander Daniel Lynch (2-2, 3.30) will start the series opener for the Royals, while the Twins list left-hander Devin Smeltzer (0-0, 1.80) as their scheduled starter.

Garrett ejected

Royals left-handed reliever Amir Garrett pitched a scoreless ninth inning with three strikeouts and then was ejected.

Garrett, who had left the clubhouse by the time reporters went in during postgame, struck out White Sox infielder Josh Harrison swinging at a third strike to end the inning, stranding a runner on base.

However, a balk was called that wiped out the pitch and advanced the runner to second base.

Garrett struck out Harrison, again, swinging. As he walked off the mound, Garrett had an exchange with second base umpire Ramon De Jesus that prompted De Jesus to eject Garrett.

“Obviously, he reacted to the second base umpire,” Matheny said. “But the first base umpire is the one who called the balk. Umpires don’t like getting yelled at. He did what he had to do, I guess.”