CHICAGO (AP) — Philip Humber snapped out of his post-perfect game slump. This time, the rest of the Chicago White Sox let him down.
Humber pitched four-hit ball into the seventh inning, but the bullpen struggled and the lineup left 10 runners on base in a 9-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Sunday.
"Phil came out and pitched great," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "I don't know if he's as sharp as you saw him either in spring or in Seattle, but he was able to find it. He gained control of it and spotted and threw all his pitches. On the other hand, we let it get away from us."
Pinch-hitter Johnny Giavotella hit a clutch two-run double off Matt Thornton in the seventh inning and Jeff Francoeur belted his first homer of the season, leading the Royals to their fourth win in five games.
"We were dead and (Giavotella) put up a huge at-bat against a guy who's not easy to hit and throws 97," Francoeur said. "So I thought that kind of livened us up and then we were able to relax and have some good swings."
Alcides Escobar went 3 for 3 with two walks for Kansas City, which broke it open with six runs in the ninth inning. Francoeur also had an RBI single and made a nice play in right field.
Humber allowed one run, struck out seven and walked three over 6 2-3 innings in his best start since his gem at Seattle on April 21. The 29-year-old right-hander was 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA in his previous three outings.
"Just more of a focus," he said. "Not that you're ever not trying, but more of a competitor, going out there and seeing the target, and going right at it, not worrying about the results. That's how you have fun as a ballplayer is going out there and letting it all hang out. Definitely a step in the right direction."
Kansas City won its second straight series despite losing Danny Duffy to elbow tightness after just three batters. The left-hander recorded two outs before catcher Humberto Quintero saw him shake out his arm at the end of a throw, prompting a mound visit from manager Ned Yost and a trainer.
"As soon as he said 'It's in my elbow,' I said 'That's it,'" Yost said. "We need to get that checked, see what's going on there, and go from there."
Duffy was headed back to Kansas City on Sunday night and is scheduled for an MRI exam on Monday. He also experienced tightness in his elbow last month.
Luis Mendoza (2-2) came in and pitched 5 2-3 innings, keeping the Royals in the game. He allowed one run and seven hits, struck out four and walked two.
"Just tried to get that confidence," he said. "I mean the last three appearances, I feel good and more confident, too."
Humber issued a one-out walk to Escobar in the seventh, but got Quintero to foul out before he was replaced by left-hander Matt Thornton (1-3) with the White Sox clinging to a 1-0 lead.
Jarrod Dyson then walked, and both runners moved up on a wild pitch. Giavotella followed with a double down the right-field line, giving the Royals the lead with his first hit of the season. The 5-foot-8 second baseman is 1 for 10 in four games since he was recalled from Triple-A Omaha on Wednesday.
"I was glad to be a spark," he said. "We couldn't score against Humber. He was keeping us at bay, so I'm glad I was able to get a big knock for us."
Francoeur hit a drive to left off Nate Jones in the eighth for his first homer since Sept. 23 at U.S. Cellular Field. He also made a nice sliding catch on Brent Morel's drive to the warning track in the fourth before nearly doubling off Tyler Flowers with a strong throw to first.
The White Sox put runners on first and second with one out in the eighth but Kosuke Fukudome struck out and fellow pinch-hitter A.J. Pierzynski bounced out to end the inning.
"We've been leaving guys on base, we had opportunities today," Ventura said. "We have guys that are swinging OK, it's just not coming through. You have to continue to grind. I know they're going to work and go at it."
NOTES: White Sox LHP Chris Sale said he felt fine one day after his first start since May 1. "Everything went well today," he said. Sale was moved to the bullpen because the team was concerned about his sore elbow, but he talked his way back into the rotation after an MRI came back clean. ... Ventura said he wants to keep Adam Dunn in the lineup when they face the crosstown Cubs at Wrigley Field next weekend, and he's leaning toward playing the burly slugger in left. "Plus he'll enjoy the fans out in the outfield," Ventura said with a grin. "He likes to talk. He likes fan interaction." ... Chicago hosts Detroit in the opener of a two-game series on Monday. White Sox LHP John Danks (2-4) is slated to face LHP Drew Smyly (1-0). ... White Sox reliever Jesse Crain (oblique) threw a scoreless inning in his second rehab appearance with Triple-A Charlotte.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap