The White Sox (42-39) held a 3-0 lead into the fifth inning behind Gavin Floyd, the same starting pitcher who had posted a microscopic 1.39 ERA over his past eight quality starts. But in the course of two Royals at-bats, Floyd went from no-hitting the American League Central's fourth-place team to suffering the defeat.
Kansas City's rally in the fifth and sixth innings brought an end to the White Sox seven-game winning streak. The setback also marked the first for Ozzie Guillen's crew in six games on this seven-game road trip, snapping a seven-game road winning streak dating back to June 19 in Cincinnati.
Yet, with the South Siders playing their best baseball of the 2009 season and finding themselves in second place in the AL Central, it's hard for the team to get frustrated over one misstep.
"You can't win them all," White Sox right fielder Jermaine Dye said. "Now we just have to be ready to play [Sunday] and try and win the series."
An eighth consecutive win looked in reach for the White Sox, when they built up a 3-0 advantage against Kansas City starter Luke Hochevar (4-3). Dewayne Wise's two-out single in the second scored Chris Getz with the game's first run, and Alexei Ramirez's double and Dye's two-run blast raised the ante to open the third.
Dye's home run was his 19th of the season, coming on a 2-0 pitch from Hochevar. The White Sox right fielder also tied Royals Hall of Famer George Brett on the all-time list with home run No. 317.
"That was a stupid pitch, a changeup right down the middle," said Hochevar of Dye's home run. "A terrible pitch."
"I was just able to get enough bat on it to hit it out," Dye said. "I was looking for something over the plate and reacted to it up."
Gordon Beckham added his third home run on a 1-0 pitch from Hochevar with one out in the sixth, but that blast would be the last run of the game for the White Sox. In fact, the bullpen trio of Juan Cruz, John Bale and Joakim Soria (11th save) retired the final nine White Sox hitters.
"Three zeroes, man. That's nice to see," said Royals manager Trey Hillman of his bullpen.
"They are good pitchers," said Beckham of the Royals' relief crew. "I think we had some decent at-bats against Bale. We just couldn't square it up. He did a good job of keeping us off-balance."
Meanwhile, the Royals (34-46) slowly clawed their way back into contention. Floyd (6-6) walked two over the first four innings but didn't give up a hit until Mike Jacobs' single to open the fifth. Kansas City scored two in that frame, cutting the lead to one.
The one-run lead stood at 4-3 with two outs and runners on second and third in the sixth, when Alberto Callaspo dropped a 3-2 pitch from reliever Matt Thornton a little ways over the head of Getz at second to score Jose Guillen and Mark Teahen and give Kansas City a one-run edge. All three runs scored by the Royals in the sixth were charged to Floyd, who allowed five runs on four hits over 5 1/3 innings.
There was a chance for the White Sox to escape the sixth still ahead, when Guillen's ground ball off of Floyd to Getz with runners at first and second and nobody out had all the markings of a double play. But Ramirez was late getting to the base, and his jump throw across second wasn't in time to get Guillen. If the double play was completed, pinch-hitter Brayan Pena's slow roller to Beckham would have been the inning's last out and held the White Sox advantage at 4-3.
Manager Ozzie Guillen pointed to Ramirez's defensive positioning for Guillen as the reason for his late arrival.
"He was playing to pull," said Guillen of Ramirez. "That's why he was a little late. He was playing all the way near the third-base side, and he couldn't get there in time. That's how we play Guillen. Unfortunately, the ball was hit to that [right] side."
Despite the slow start to the 2009 campaign, the White Sox are only three games off their 2008 pace at the halfway point of the season. Of course, at the 81-game mark last year, Chicago was in first place by one game.
Losing Saturday's lead momentarily halted the White Sox recent climb toward the Tigers. Bouncing back Sunday behind Clayton Richard would complete the series win in Missouri and a 6-1 road trip, as well as set them up for a strong final week of the season's first half, with last-place Cleveland coming to town on Tuesday.
So there's reason for Saturday's frustration to quickly disappear.
"We'll probably lose again this year. We might," said Beckham with a laugh. "I felt like we had a good grasp on the game and we let it slip away in that one inning. They got a couple of runs and put some pressure on us to come back."
"Anytime we play in the division we just want to win the series," Dye said. "We let a tough one get by today, but you tip your hat to those guys. Hopefully we start a new streak [Sunday]."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.