KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The cardboard cutouts were treated to a tight ballgame with a somewhat anticlimactic finish in the Kansas City Royals' home opener on Friday night.
The Royals, fresh off of a seven-game road trip to start the season, lost 3-2 to the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium in the major-league debut of rookie left-handed pitcher Kris Bubic and the first home game of the Mike Matheny managerial era. White Sox reliever Alex Colomé retired the Royals in order in the ninth inning, despite a 10-pitch pinch-hit battle by Ryan O'Hearn.
However, O'Hearn's at-bat ended in a ground-out. Whit Merrifield's bunt went right back to the pitcher and Adalberto Mondesi struck out swinging.
Had the Royals been able to get one man on base in the ninth, they'd have been able to turn up the pressure on the White Sox and bring catcher Salvador Perez to the plate with a chance to make something happen.
"I've been saying that like every night," Matheny said. "It seems like we've got Nick Heath standing over there, and I'm almost having to pull him off the field. He's so ready to go. But we're starting to see the at-bats. I'll go back to O'Hearn's again. Go back to some of the other ones we're starting to see where guys get into those deep counts and they just fight and they fight."
Perez had an RBI and three hits in his first regular-season game at Kauffman Stadium since September 2018. He missed last season following Tommy John surgery in March 2019.
The Royals went 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base.
Maikel Franco had a red-hot four-game series against the Detroit Tigers in which he went 6 for 17 with two doubles, two home runs and six RBIs. However, he couldn't find a way to get that one ice-breaking hit on Friday night. He left seven men on base in an 0-for-4 outing.
The Royals have now lost three one-run games, and four of their five losses have been by two runs or fewer.
Bubic allowed three runs (two earned) on three hits, including one home run, and one walk. He struck out three, but his command was a bit erratic in his first appearance above Single-A.
Royals first baseman Ryan McBroom went 2 for 4 with a double off the wall and his first major-league home run off former Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel in the sixth inning.
Royals veteran left fielder Alex Gordon, a seven-time Gold Glove winner, threw out a runner at the plate in the seventh inning to record his 99th career outfield assist (since 2010).
"I thought he was good," Matheny said of Bubic. "He was obviously amped. We talked about trying to get him down in the zone, which he was having trouble doing. ... He kept attacking the zone, kept trusting his stuff and then he just got better as he went. Then he got to that limit that we knew we were going to be at."
Thirty-one of Bubic's 76 pitches were out of the strike zone and he hit James McCann twice.
"Everybody gets a little excited their first game in the big leagues," Perez said. "He was good in the bullpen. After the first or second inning, I started to talk to him a little bit. 'Keep your concentration. It's the same game. You're going to be fine.' He's got pretty good stuff, man. He's going to be good."
Bubic's second inning started with a ground ball that Nicky Lopez, playing in the middle of the diamond due to the defensive shift, failed to scoop cleanly. The error put a runner on to start the inning for the second consecutive time. After a fielder's choice, Bubic paid for having trouble spotting his fastball.
His 2-2 fastball to McCann veered so far up and in that it smacked off McCann's helmet. With two men on, he left an 81 mph 2-2 changeup up the middle of the plate and Adam Engel jumped all over it to the tune of a three-run home run over the left field wall and into the visiting bullpen to give the White Sox a 3-0 advantage.
"For the most part, my fastball and changeup is obviously my go-to, but the situation dictates a few emotions for me," Bubic said. "I just got to make sure I do not rush, especially in the windup. I don't have to be (1.1 seconds) to the plate in the windup. I've got to focus on taking my time and let my arm get up."
The Royals cut into the deficit in the third inning thanks to a one-out infield single by Lopez and a two-out infield single by Mondesi. Perez swatted an RBI single to left field and Lopez scored from second to give the Royals their first run at home this season.
McBroom's solo blast to center field in the sixth inning pulled the Royals within a run, 3-2, and marked the end of White Sox starter Dallas Keuchel's night. McBroom's homer traveled and estimated 426 feet to the deepest part of the ballpark. He'd doubled off the wall against Keuchel in the fourth inning.
"I felt like it was just a monkey on my back," McBroom said. "It was just nice, especially off that arm, Keuchel. It was something special and something I'll remember the rest of my life. It was nice. Finally!"