Royal frustration

A few questionable calls, a tepid start from Dylan Cease, some bullpen blusters, and missed opportunities on offense contribute to a White Sox loss to Kansas City, 9-6
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CHICAGO — A few questionable calls, a tepid start from Dylan Cease, some bullpen blusters, and missed opportunities on offense contribute to a White Sox loss to Kansas City, 9-6.

Like night and day

Mornings aren't for everyone.

And that seems to hold especially true for the White Sox, whose record in day games has now dropped to 6-8 contrasted with a night game record of 14-5. 

In the early innings, the game was back-and-forth and remained close Then, the Royals scored a staggering five runs in the seventh inning off reliever Zack Burdi. 

Though the Sox put up a tepid three-spot in the bottom of the ninth, the Royals bullpen kept a rally out of reach, despite a Chicago offense that came into the game batting .325/.395/.494 and outscoring the Royals 29-14 on the season.

So what went wrong? What could have gone worse? What could have been better? Let's break it down.

The weird, wild, wacky world of Dylan Cease

Starting pitcher Dylan Cease was criticized last year for a lack of command, and that was certainly the case today: the righty issued six free passes to the Royals, somehow still managing to hold them to one run (off a homer, no less). 

Cease's final line was perhaps a premonition that this would be not necessarily a bad day for the White Sox, but certainly a weird one: Cease went 4 ⅓ innings, walking six, with five strikeouts, one earned run, and one hit.

As early in the first inning, Cease was falling behind hitters, and throwing WAY outside the zone. Today, the fastball command just wasn't there: Ball four of each of Cease's six walks were on the fastball.

Though Cease did limit the Royals to one run today, there are some areas of major concern: Cease's ERA sits at 3.00, while his FIP tells a much different story: 6.21. His BB/9 for the year sits at 4.50. 

Nick Madrigal's triumphant return, and a few other not-so-triumphant things

Today was Nick Madrigal's first start at second base, returning to the lineup after his left shoulder was separated on a head-first slide on August 4. It's worth mentioning that Danny Mendick performed admirably in Madrigal's stead, starting in 21 games and hitting .300, with four doubles, three home runs, six RBIs, and five multi-hit games. 

In the third inning, with the Royals infield in, Madrigal somehow took a neck-high Brady Singer pitch and slapped it for a single back up the middle, scoring Luis Robert, to put the White Sox up, 1-0. Madrigal also singled in the bottom of the ninth today, but we'll get into that a little more, later.

What's with this pitch location?

Tim Anderson singled, deflecting through second baseman Nicky Lopez and Madrigal advancing to third (on a *gulp* slide) with an aggressive turn. Working Singer's pitch count in this inning (36 total in the third, 61 pitches total at that point) seemed to be the move here: Yoán Moncada walked, loading the bases. 

And then an opportunity to score more runs was missed: Yasmani Grandal and José Abreu both struck out, leaving the bases loaded.

Not-so-triumphant, continued: that seventh inning

Burdi was brought in to relieve Jimmy Cordero in the seventh inning, and if only the sentence could stop there.

Ryan McBroom hit a Royals season record-tying (!) second pinch-homer run, finding an 0-1 slider and crushing it, tying the game, and perhaps swinging the momentum for the rest of the way. So Burdi's slider was not up to par for today — but after Hunter Dozier singled next on a fastball, it looked as if that pitch decided to take a day off, too.

Burdi continued to deliver a weak 1-2 punch of only fastballs and sliders, and it was not fooling Royals hitters. Ryan O’Hearn singled, scoring Dozier, making it 4-3. Though Burdi was not sharp today by any means, some questionable calls were made, including this one: 

To conclude Burdi's blustery seventh inning, Maikel Franco then found a high fastball for a three-run shot that just nipped Luis Robert's outstretched glove to make it 7-3, Royals.

Some good things, in fact, happened

Coming into today, Edwin Encarnación had hit three home runs in his last seven games. In the fourth inning, after a leadoff walk to Eloy Jiménez, Encarnación hit his sixth home run of the year, a gentle wall-scraper that put the White Sox up, 3-0. Encarnación's blast is the 52nd home run the White Sox have hit in August, a new monthly franchise record.

Nomar Mazara made this impressive sliding catch in the top of the sixth inning, then added some confusion as to whether the inning was over:

Today, Abreu extended his hitting streak to 12 games, with a sharp line-drive, two-out single in the bottom of the sixth. In those 12 games, he's 20-for-44, or for you mathematical types, hitting .455.

Because it wouldn't be a White Sox game without just a little bit of theatrics, the lineup treated Royals reliever Ian Kennedy to a soliloquy of singles, by Robert and Madrigal. Anderson then doubled, scoring Robert. A throwing error by Kennedy — who pulled a muscle before fielding the ball, it seems — allowed Yoán Moncada to reach safely, scoring Anderson, and bringing you today's final score of 9-6. 

This was the first White Sox loss to Kansas City this year.

Though this section was intended to mention good things about today,  Moncada left the game after sliding into second. Postgame, Ricky Renteria could only offer that Moncada's legs have continued to nag him, and the trouble this time is in his left hamstring area.

Looking ahead

Cleveland won their game today, so the White Sox are no longer in first place. As mercurial as we know baseball is, that can change as soon as tomorrow.

Renteria announced in his postgame that Dane Dunning will get the start tomorrow, and if you remember his last outing (his major-league debut on August 18, vs. Detroit), he looked excellent in a four-inning effort, striking out seven. Though he made some mistakes before being removed, he looked promising, with an incredible curveball. 

If you need to be reminded: 

Catch tomorrow's 1:10 p.m. CT game on NBC Sports Chicago, or on your radio at WGN 720.