KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Just about the only good thing about the eighth inning that Jesse Crain endured Sunday was that the ace White Sox reliever will finally get to shave.
Everything else was something to forget.
The right-hander came in to protect a two-run lead against the Kansas City Royals having gone a franchise-record 29 consecutive appearances without allowing a run, a streak that coincided with his decision to grow a gnarly good-luck beard.
Two hits, two errors and a bases-loaded walk later, the Royals were on their way to an improbable 7-6 victory and Crain was on his way to the barbershop.
“I’m just glad I get to shave now,” he said afterward. “It’s a tough way to lose a game. We had a chance to sweep the series, which we needed. We just have to look forward to the next game.”
Adam Dunn homered and drove in four runs for the Sox, and Gordon Beckham’s two-run double in the seventh gave them a 6-4 lead. But things started to unravel when Crain came into the game and allowed consecutive singles to Mike Moustakas and David Lough.
Elliot Johnson put down a sacrifice bunt that Crain (2-2) had trouble fielding for an error that loaded the bases. Crain recovered to strike out George Kottaras and Jarrod Dyson, but he then walked Alex Gordon to get Kansas City within a run.
Alcides Escobar followed with a hard grounder toward shortstop that got past Alexei Ramirez, the ball ending up in left field and the error allowing the go-ahead runs to score.
All three of the runs Crain allowed were unearned.
Ramirez refused to talk to reporters afterward, but White Sox manager Robin Ventura provided a blunt assessment of the play: “He didn’t catch it. That’s it. That’s why it’s an error.”
Kottaras and Dyson had back-to-back homers for the Royals, who snapped a four-game losing streak with the kind of scrappy, win-ugly performance that is becoming their hallmark.
Luke Hochevar (1-1) struck out two in a scoreless innings of relief, while Greg Holland pitched a perfect ninth for his 16th save in 18 chances.
“It’s big anytime you get a win and especially coming from behind,” Hochevar said. “That’s always a big pick-me-up for the club.”
Royals starter James Shields and White Sox counterpart Dylan Axelrod both went through rough afternoons, though they surely got an exciting show once they left the game.
Shields threw six straight balls to start the game and things never got a whole lot better, his leadoff walk to Alejandro De Aza and a single later in the first inning turning into two quick runs when Dunn rapped a single off the glove of Eric Hosmer at first base.
The Royals’ ace then plunked Alex Rios in the back in the third inning, and Dunn made Shields pay again for his erratic ways with his no-doubt, two-run shot to center field.
It was the 20th homer for the hot-hitting Dunn, who trails only the Orioles’ Chris Davis and Blue Jays’ Edwin Encarnacion for the most in the American League.
Shields wound up putting the leadoff batter on base in four of his five innings, and needed 97 pitches just to last that long. He departed without finishing six innings for the first time since last July 15 against Boston, a span of 30 consecutive starts.
The former All-Star hasn’t won in his last 10 outings.
“I guess I have to start another 29-game streak now,” he said. “I’ve been pitching my butt off all season. I don’t really care (about wins) as long as we win the game.”
The Royals started moving that direction in the bottom of the third inning on Gordon’s RBI single, and then pulled even against Axelrod during a three-run fifth inning.
The first two came on their back-to-back home runs — the 26th career homer for Kottaras, who was giving Salvador Perez the day off behind the plate, and just the third career shot for Dyson, who was making his first start since returning from the disabled list on Saturday.
“I put the barrel on the ball and it took off,” Dyson said.
Escobar kept the rally alive with a double, and Billy Butler’s two-out single through the left side of the infield tied the game 4-all and knocked Axelrod from the game.
Beckham’s double off Kelvin Herrera in the seventh inning pushed the White Sox back in front, but a bullpen — and a reliever — that has been stingy all month finally let them down.
“He’s semi-human,” Ventura said of Crain, whose scoreless streak began April 17. “You know eventually there’s going to be a time or two when he’s going to give up a run or two. It’s just tough that it was today.”
NOTES: Beckham was back in the lineup after a day off. ... The Royals claimed RHP Maikel Cleto off waivers from St. Louis and assigned him to Triple-A Omaha. They designated OF Quintin Berry for assignment. ... The Royals are off before hosting the Braves for the first time in interleague play on Tuesday. The White Sox also are off before starting a series against the Mets.