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.

“The back end of it is, is you’ve got to make sure you can steal the base,” Yost said. “There’s gotta be no question. It’s gotta be like 99 percent, you know.”

Merrifield was caught trying to swipe home on a double steal with no outs in the first inning, a play Merrifield said the Royals had practiced. Yost had not anticipated it.

The plan backfired, and the Royals didn’t get on the board until Salvador Perez hit a solo home run in the sixth inning.

In the eighth, after reaching second on Alex Gordon’s game-tying groundout, Escobar tried to “push the envelope,” Yost said, with his own attempt to steal third with two outs. He was initially ruled safe, but the replay showed White Sox third baseman Tyler Saladino tagging Escobar on the shoulder before his feet reached the bag.

“I wanted to be aggressive to get to third but I was out,” Escobar told The Star in Spanish. “That’s just what happens. Sometimes we’re going to make mistakes and we have to learn from them. ... It cost us in the first inning and it cost us with my mistake in the eighth.”

This is the Royals’ new normal. Or maybe it’s not so new anymore, since the last time they got a starter to finish the seventh inning was Danny Duffy on July 31. Eric Skoglund offered little relief Wednesday, as he allowed three runs and only pitched three innings.

The fact remains: The Royals had to dig into their taxed bullpen in the fourth inning on Wednesday. They’ll travel to Cleveland with a relief corps that has thrown a majors-leading 59 innings in September. They’ll run head-first into a team that during a historic stretch has outscored opponents 139-35.

In that same stretch, which began Aug. 24, the Royals (72-73) have amassed an 8-12 record and lost by 11 or more runs four times. They went from two games above .500 to one below the even mark after losing this series to the White Sox.

Overcoming future mistakes won’t be easy.

“We’re all working together to battle and battle to win whatever way we can,” Escobar said.