Last-place team too tough

A pair of starting pitchers with a combined record of 4-17 entering this series made the White Sox hitters look futile as the last-place Kansas City Royals took two out of three from the purported American League Central contenders.

The Sox dropped a 6-4 decision Thursday night at Kauffman Stadium, falling short after a three-run rally in the ninth off two Royals relievers. The loss left the Sox six games behind the first-place Minnesota Twins, who lost to Anaheim earlier Thursday.

After 104 games the Sox are exactly where they were this point last season with a 54-51 record. The difference is the Sox were four games behind the Twins at this point last season. This year the Sox are six games back, and the third-place Cleveland Indians, who come to U.S. Cellular Field Friday night to begin a four-game series, are breathing down their necks.

"We finished up the (2-5) road trip the way we started," said manager Ozzie Guillen, whose team has dropped nine of its last 11.

Kansas City starter Zack Greinke (4-8), the Royals' first-round draft pick (sixth overall) in 2002, had a no-hitter for 42/3 innings. Joe Crede looped a 1-2 pitch into short center for the Sox's first hit.

Matt Stairs, who blasted a pair of homers, had given the Royals a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth with his 14th of the season off Sox starter and loser Jon Garland (7-8).

The Royals struck again in the fifth inning as Angel Berroa and John Buck led off with singles to put runners at the corners. David DeJesus singled home Berroa. Joe Randa drew a walk to load the bases. Ken Harvey bounced into a force play, but Stairs followed with a three-run homer to left-center for a 6-0 advantage.

The Sox finally broke through in the scoring column when Aaron Rowand hit the first pitch in the sixth from Greinke for his 14th homer of the season to make it 6-1.

Second baseman Willie Harris realizes his playing time will be affected by the arrival of Roberto Alomar—acquired Thursday in a trade with Arizona—on Friday.

"I guess that kind of depends on me," said Harris, who was 0-for-3 with a walk Thursday night.

Greinke checked the Sox with three hits and one run over seven innings. He struck out six and walked none before giving way to D.J. Carrasco in the eighth.

The Royals, who played most of this series without one of their best hitters—Mike Sweeney—touched up Garland for six runs on seven hits in seven innings. He walked two and struck out three before being relieved by Damaso Marte in the eighth.

"I wish this kid (Garland) can stay away from the big innings," Guillen said. "This kid has a great arm and an opportunity. I keep saying that and some people think I try to back him up too much and baby him too much. But what I see is there."

A stadium power surge in the ninth inning shut off many of the lights and held up play for 24 minutes with Paul Konerko in the batter's box.

Konerko eventually struck out, but Jose Valentin followed with his 24th homer over the right-field fence to make it 6-2. Ben Davis and pinch-hitter Joe Borchard followed with singles. Harris drew a walk to load the bases before Royals manager Tony Pena went to the mound to summon reliever Nate Field.

Field struck out Rowand but Timo Perez hit a soft two-run single to left to make it 6-4. But Carlos Lee, swinging at the first pitch, popped out to second to end the game and Field earned his third save.