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Overworked bullpen falters in White Sox win over Royals, who are eliminated from AL Central race

Maria Torres, The Kansas City Star on

Published in Baseball

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Sitting in his Kauffman Stadium office Wednesday morning, Royals manager Ned Yost made a list of his available relievers. It was short -- former closer Kelvin Herrera, who pitched a perfect eighth later that day, and newcomer Mike Morin were the only ones he could say an emphatic "yes" for.

Scott Alexander was a definite "no." He'd thrown 75 pitches in the last week, pitched in four of the five previous games.

Then Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar drove in an eighth-inning run to cut the White Sox's lead hours later, and the phone rang in the bullpen for at least the fourth time that day. Alexander stretched as the Royals rallied, and he trotted out to the mound for the ninth inning of a tied game to Daughtry's "There And Back Again."

"(Alexander) came through today and said, 'Look, I can go. I'm good. I can go,' " Yost said. "And through much discussion, we just figured they were all in the same boat down there. Trust the player."

Alexander fumbled after getting the leadoff hitter to ground out. He couldn't locate his sinker, a pitch Yost had raved about time and again throughout the last few weeks. Alexander allowed a single, a walk and a stolen base, with a wild pitch for good measure, before a sacrifice fly off the bat of Jose Abreu did him in.

Another run eventually crossed the plate for the White Sox, and the Royals lost 5-3 on Wednesday. It was their first series loss this month.

The defeat also officially eliminated the Royals in the American League Central race. They fell 3 1/2 games back of the Twins in the race for the second AL wild-card spot.

Rookie Jakob Junis already had a tall task ahead of him Thursday night, when he'll start against a team in the throes of a 21-game winning streak when the Royals begin a four-game series in Cleveland.

A volatile 3-4 homestand made that task no easier.

The pressure might have lessened a bit, had Escobar and Whit Merrifield not committed baserunning blunders to end what could have been game-changing rallies Wednesday.

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