The pitching faltered. The hitting was sparse. And the injuries mounted.
Add those up, and the Royals found themselves stuck with a 13-3 loss against the White Sox in the second contest of a three-game set at U.S. Cellular Field.
Kansas City rookie Dusty Hughes, making his first Major League start, came out in the fifth inning with left elbow nerve inflammation, the third of three Royals injuries on the night. Earlier, both David DeJesus and Miguel Olivo exited prematurely. DeJesus left in the second with soreness in his right ankle and Olivo left one inning later with a stomach disorder.
After the Royals won nine of their past 11, Saturday's contest proved one to forget. DeJesus had his career-high 17-game hitting streak snapped because he only received one at-bat. And Olivo, arguably the team's hottest hitter after producing a career-high six-RBI game the night before, also managed only one at-bat.
For only the second time in their past 13 games, the Royals were unable to collect double-digit hits, producing just five.
But the primary reason for Kansas City's overall struggles Saturday came courtesy of the pitching staff, which issued nine free passes to a patient Chicago offense that chipped away for 14 hits.
"The bottom line is we didn't throw enough strikes," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "How many was it, nine walks? Yeah, that's a lot. You can't beat a team like this in this ballpark with their power. We didn't pitch inside enough to keep the right-handed power hitters off balance. Unfortunately, we woke their bats up."
The Royals were tied with the White Sox at 3 when Hughes left the game with one out in the fifth after throwing high and away to make the count 2-1 to Paul Konerko. With Royals righty Yasuhiko Yabuta on in relief, Konerko eventually drew a walk. Alexei Ramirez then singled to right field and Jermaine Dye walked to load the bases.
Those at-bats set the scene for left fielder Carlos Quentin, who crushed a 3-1 fastball into the left-field seats, a grand slam that broke a tie ballgame and pushed the White Sox in front, 7-3.
Even though Hughes (0-1) wasn't around when Quentin delivered the game's big blow, he was saddled with the loss because the walk to Konerko was credited to him.
"What kind of hurt me early on was first-pitch strikes," Hughes said. "I felt good. My arm felt really good. I got out of a couple jams that kept us in it. I made pitches when I kind of needed to later on with a couple guys on, but just getting behind the count, walking [four], and just having to battle the whole time was mentally draining in a sense."
The Royals scored their runs early off White Sox starter Jake Peavy (1-0), who was making his first start since joining Chicago in a trade from the Padres just before the non-waiver Trade Deadline expired on July 31. Kansas City plated two in the second and one in the third. Alex Gordon slapped a single into center field, scoring Alberto Callaspo to tie the game at 1. Yuniesky Betancourt later dropped down a sacrifice bunt, scoring Olivo from third for a 2-1 Royals lead.
In the third, Billy Butler lined his 18th homer of the season over the right-field wall, giving the Royals a brief 3-1 lead.
"I saw four straight offspeed pitches, curveballs, stuff like that," Butler said of the pitch sequence. "So he gave me a 2-2 count and I figured he'd try a fastball, and I was pretty much sitting on the plate and tried to battle away. He left it up and I just put a barrel on it and drove it."
Chicago added insult to Kansas City's injuries by plating six runs as it batting around in the eighth. All four Royals pitchers surrendered at least one run. Yabuta allowed three runs in two-thirds of an inning and saw his ERA rise to 14.73. Making just his fourth big league appearance this season, Victor Marte also had his ERA skyrocket to 10.50, allowing five runs in 2 1/3 innings.
A season that began so promisingly for Kansas City -- which stood in first place in the American League Central as late as May 15 -- now has the Royals at 60-88 with 14 games remaining in the regular season, still one game behind Cleveland for fourth place in the AL Central.
And it remains to be seen which players will be available to play in the upcoming days as the Royals continue their pursuit of escaping the division cellar.
"It's just one thing after another," Hillman said. "So we'll line up [Sunday] with who's healthy and go get them again."
Jesse Temple is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.