KANSAS CITY -- It looked so promising in the ninth inning. The Royals had runners at first and second, nobody out and they trailed by just one run.
"Usually situations like that, first and second with nobody out, it works out in your favor, and it didn't tonight," said the Royals' Billy Butler.
No, it didn't. The Royals were unable to score, and the Chicago White Sox held on for a 7-6 victory on a balmy Monday night with 16,462 fans enjoying the newly arrived 82-degree weather at Kauffman Stadium.
The crowd's interest perked up when Nori Aoki opened the Royals' ninth with a single. Speedster Jarrod Dyson pinch-ran and Alcides Escobar put down a bunt toward White Sox closer Matt Lindstrom. But Lindstrom let the ball go through his legs, began limping and was taken out of the game to be examined.
Two on, nobody out, and left-hander Scott Downs came in to strike out Eric Hosmer. Right-hander Jake Petricka relieved Downs to face Butler.
"Those are our two best baserunners right there, and we're looking for a spot," manager Ned Yost said. "Billy has really been swinging the bat well but is a candidate for a double play. We were looking to try to advance those two bases."
So Dyson broke for third base -- but a bit soon and was picked off by Petricka. He was aiming for a steal.
"If I wasn't, I wouldn't have got picked off," Dyson said. "I wouldn't get that far off on a fake."
"He got a little over-aggressive right there," Yost said.
Dyson actually avoided a tag in the rundown and got back to second base safely, but Escobar was already there and that was one baserunner too many on the bag. Dyson was tagged for the second out. Butler then bounced out to second base and the game was over.
This was a night when the Royals' offense, which came to life with an eight-run outburst in Sunday's win, kept on humming by jumping to a 5-0 lead in the first inning. But the starting pitching sprung a leak as left-hander Jason Vargas was slammed by three home runs.
Vargas gave up seven runs in 4 2/3 innings after he and the other starters had combined for a 2.67 ERA in the previous 12 games.
"I don't get too mad about a lot of things, but given a five-run lead in the first inning and then coughing it up halfway through the fifth is just not good enough to get it done," Vargas said. "I coughed it up for us tonight."
Ah yes, that first inning was marvelous for the Royals, but it marked a rough homecoming for 29-year-old White Sox rookie Scott Carroll. The right-handed pitcher was born in Kansas City, grew up in nearby Liberty, Mo., and still lives there. He also went to Missouri State University in Springfield, where he was a quarterback as well as a pitcher.
After seven years and part of an eighth in the Minors, Carroll was called up on April 27 to join the White Sox rotation. This was his fifth start but the first in his hometown.
"It felt great," Carroll said. "Being back home in Kansas City was kind of a surreal feeling. I last pitched on this field when I was a senior in high school, in 2003, so it's been some time. It was just awesome to be back here and pitch in front of my family and friends. I wish it could have been a little bit better, but at the end of the day, it was still a great opportunity. I'm just happy I could do that."
The White Sox victory made it a bit easier to absorb that five-run first in which the Royals batted around.
Aoki and Escobar started the mayhem with singles, and they both scored on Hosmer's double to right field. Butler singled to score Hosmer and Alex Gordon walked. Finally, Carroll retired a batter as Salvador Perez flied out, although the sometimes ponderous Butler took off for third base after the catch and made it, exciting the crowd.
Gordon advanced to second on the same play, and both runners scored on Lorenzo Cain's single up the middle. So it was 5-0, and Carroll finally ended the inning by getting Mike Moustakas and Johnny Giavotella on groundouts.
The Royals added a sixth run in the fourth inning, driven in by a Hosmer single.
The White Sox quickly got back in the game against Vargas. Alexei Ramirez pounded a three-run homer in the third inning. Dayan Viciedo opened the fourth with a solo shot. And Paul Konerko polished off a three-run fifth inning with a two-run blast over the center-field wall.
"I certainly didn't think it was going to be a home run, it didn't feel that good," Konerko said. "With this ballpark, I think the wind was probably helping a little bit, because I've hit balls way better than that that haven't gone out."
Konerko came into that at-bat with a 7-for-18 (.389) history against Vargas, so Yost was asked why he didn't bring Louis Coleman out of the bullpen to face the right-handed slugger.
"He struck him out the first time and he flied out the second time," Yost said. "And Vargy is a veteran pitcher that knows how to get guys out, and I felt strongly he could get us through the fifth inning."
He didn't, because after that blast, Yost went to the bullpen, which, by the way, turned in 4 1/3 scoreless innings the rest of the way. Coleman, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Tim Collins were invulnerable.
But, after Carroll finished the fourth inning and departed, so was the White Sox bullpen. Manager Robin Ventura used five relievers -- Zach Putnam and Ronald Belisario for two innings each and three more in the ninth. They gave up nothing.
"They've been doing that for a long time now," Ventura said. "Getting multiple innings and doing what they're doing, they've been great."
Good enough to foil a big chance in the ninth.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.