Medlen slips in potential battle for No. 4 spot

Medlen slips in potential battle for No. 4 spot

KANSAS CITY -- The competition for what could potentially be the fourth spot in the Royals' rotation for the playoffs got a little more intriguing on Friday night after right-hander Kris Medlen stumbled badly in a 12-1 loss to the White Sox.

Medlen had offered up two decent starts previously, but on Friday, the White Sox ambushed him for three runs in the first and seven overall in 5 2/3 innings. He gave up 11 hits. Despite the loss, Kansas City trimmed its magic number to 16 in the American League Central race.

It is Danny Duffy's turn now to make an impression on Saturday night against the White Sox. Duffy, too, has struggled of late, getting into the sixth inning only twice in his last five starts.

About the only thing encouraging for Medlen on Friday was that he did push his pitch count to 98, and he believes his arm strength is improving. It was just Medlen's third start of the season, following seven relief appearances.

"I think you take every start with negatives and positives," Medlen said. "I felt pretty strong from 90 pitches on, so given the circumstances, that's pretty encouraging. I hadn't had a feel for my changeup at all lately, but I threw some today that were good. I just threw some [lousy] curveballs."

Adam Eaton jumped on Medlen's first pitch of the game and singled. And when the dust settled after a half-inning, the Royals already were down, 3-0.

"Pretty frustrating first inning because I felt like I made some good pitches, but they were just up enough that they could do something with them," Medlen said. "Once they're hacking -- first pitch of the game they swung -- you have a pretty good idea what they're going to do, and I'm around the zone a lot.

"I felt like there were some decent pitches and they put them where we weren't."

Medlen seemed to find some rhythm until the fourth when he gave up a three-run blast to Tyler Flowers.

"I had a 1-2 pitch to Flowers and it was a fastball. I just missed down and in," Medlen said. "It could have gone either way. Then, I hung a curve to him."

While Medlen knows he is competing with Duffy for the No. 4 spot, he's trying not to get too down on himself after this clunker.

"It's baseball," Medlen said. "It's a frustrating game, but you can't get down. A ton of effort and work go into each start ...

"More than anything it's a frustrating day because I didn't give us a chance to win. Pretty [lousy] day."

Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.