Clutch hitting, defense lift KC to extra-inning win

Clutch hitting, defense lift KC to extra-inning win

Clutch hitting, defense lift KC to extra-inning win
CHICAGO -- The Royals could have fallen behind the White Sox in Sunday's first inning.

Right-hander Jeremy Guthrie could have faced potential jams in the second and seventh.

And Chicago had the potential winning run 90 feet away in the bottom of the ninth.

Each time, someone stepped up -- Alex Gordon, Jeff Francoeur (twice) and Kelvin Herrera and the middle infield -- as Kansas City's pitching and defense kept waiting for its offense to get the White Sox bullpen.

The breakthrough finally came in the top of the 10th, when Mike Moustakas and Francoeur hit two-out RBI singles to give the Royals a 2-1 victory over the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.

"Where do you start?" Kansas City manager Ned Yost rhetorically asked afterward.

First, the game-wining rally.

It began against White Sox reliever Brett Myers, a pitcher the Royals have taken quite a liking to. Billy Butler drew a two-out walk off Myers before being lifted for pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson. Dyson advanced to third on a single by Salvador Perez and scored on Moustakas' knock to right.

Francoeur followed with another single to score Perez -- who extended his career-long hitting streak to 14 games -- and knock out Myers.

Sunday's struggles were the latest for Myers (2-3) against the Royals. This season, the veteran right-hander has allowed 12 earned runs on 18 hits in 3 1/3 innings against Kansas City for a 32.40 ERA.

"The numbers are pretty staggering," Yost admitted.

Royals closer Greg Holland held off a White Sox rally in the bottom of the inning, allowing an RBI double to Gordon Beckham before striking out the final two batters to strand the tying run on third and winning run on second.

The 10th was was the second straight inning the White Sox posed a threat, with Royals right-hander Kelvin Herrera (3-2) getting Alex Rios to ground into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the ninth.

"I thought the play of the game, obviously, was Kelvin coming in and getting a huge double play from Alex," Francoeur said. "He's had such great year and for us to get that double play -- especially in the shadows ... that was huge."

It also eased the pain of their own missed opportunity in the ninth when Francoeur knocked a one-out hustle double off lefty Matt Thornton and Johnny Giavotella drew a two-out walk before center fielder Lorenzo Cain struck out.

Although the ninth-inning double play was big, Francoeur and his corner-outfield mate were among the chief reasons the game went into extra innings.

Francoeur twice showed off his arm, the second time coming in the seventh when White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski hit a two-out single to right. Alexei Ramirez, pinch-running for Paul Konerko, tried to advance to third, but was thrown out by Francoeur.

The eighth-inning play was similar to another in the second when Pierzynski singled to right with Konerko at first. Konerko advanced to third and Pierzynski rounded first hard before stopping halfway to second. Francoeur fielded and fired to second base as the Royals tagged out Pierzynski in a rundown, giving Chicago a runner at third with two outs instead of runners at the corners and one away.

Francoeur's efforts followed that of left fielder Alex Gordon in the first, when Alejandro De Aza led off with a double and advanced to third on a passed ball. Dewayne Wise flew out to Gordon, who gunned a one-hop strike to Perez to nail Wise for his 12th assist of the season.

"The defense really set the tone for the game," Guthrie said. "We could've been two or three runs down right out of the gates, but we made, not even routine, but excellent plays to get out of some innings and get out of some rallies."

Outside of those situations, Guthrie was his usual dominant self. He allowed six hits, struck out four and walked none in eight innings.

Sunday's outing was the latest in a seven-start span during which Guthrie has been unbeatable. Since his third start as a Royal at U.S. Cellular on Aug. 8, Guthrie is 4-0 with a 1.70 ERA and the Royals have won all seven of his starts. Six of his starts have been of the quality variety, with the only hiccup an Aug. 25 outing against the Red Sox when he allowed seven runs (six earned) in 2 2/3 innings.

Subtract that outing and Guthrie has an 0.60 ERA in that stretch.

"He just mixes pitches real well and got quick outs," said Beckham, whose White Sox haven't scored an earned run off Guthrie in 23 2/3 innings this season. "Threw strikes, mixed his pitches, got offspeed [pitches] over the plate and threw strikes."

While Guthrie was breezing along -- never throwing more than 17 pitches in a single frame -- and getting help from his defense, White Sox starter Hector Santiago was dominant, as well.

The White Sox left-hander struck out eight in four-plus shutout innings, but threw 93 pitches and was removed in the fifth. By the time Myers entered in the 10th, he was Chicago's seventh pitcher of the day.

"The big thing for us, I thought, is having Santiago only go four innings," Francoeur said. "Obviously we didn't score off their 'pen [until the 10th], but we wasted a lot of guys in the 'pen to get to the ninth and 10th."

Cash Kruth is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.