Two months ago, the Kansas City Royals sat one game back of the AL Central lead after their toughest stretch of the season. They came out of that just fine.
Now with a sizable division lead, they're taking another rough patch in stride as they send Edinson Volquez to the mound to start a three-game series with the visiting Chicago White Sox on Friday night.
The Royals (63-44) dropped nine of 11 from May 24-June 6 and fell behind Minnesota in the Central. They've since built the biggest division lead in baseball and have the best record in the AL despite having lost six of eight.
Kansas City's 10-game road trip came to a disappointing end Thursday after Ian Kinsler hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to give Detroit an 8-6 victory. The Royals tied it in the seventh on a homer by Drew Butera and a two-run double from Kendrys Morales.
"It is always disappointing to lose a series, and this is two of them," manager Ned Yost said. "What's done is done, but this is disappointing."
Volquez (10-6, 3.20 ERA) has a 2.48 ERA over his last six starts, but he had a role in tempers flaring during Sunday's 5-2 loss to Toronto. Volquez said he simply was pitching to the scouting report when he threw high and tight to Josh Donaldson, whom Volquez hit once before whizzing another pitch past his head.
The right-hander wasn't ejected and made it through six innings for the fourth straight start. That stretch began July 17, when he gave up two in 6 1/3 innings of a 2-0 loss to the White Sox.
Volquez is 1-2 with a 1.80 ERA in three starts this season against Chicago, which has lost seven of 10 meetings and has gone through a difficult stretch of its own.
The White Sox (51-55) followed a season-best seven-game winning streak by losing five of their next six before beating Tampa Bay 6-5 in 10 innings Wednesday. Adam Eaton stole second, went to third after the throw got away and scored the winning run on Avisail Garcia's bases-loaded walk.
Chicago is 4 1/2 games back of the second wild card, but it would have to jump six teams.
"Hopefully, we can start streaking for about a month or two," Eaton said. "We've definitely been Jekyll and Hyde, where it's been one or the other. Hopefully, we can get on the good side of things and roll a little bit here."
The White Sox were swept in Kansas City to open the season and have dropped six of the last seven meetings at Kauffman Stadium. They'll turn to John Danks, who outdueled Volquez last month to improve to 9-1 with a 2.60 ERA in 19 career starts against the Royals.
That began a four-start stretch for Danks (6-8, 4.80) during which he is 2-0 with a 2.78 ERA after allowing one run and striking out eight in 5 2/3 innings of Saturday's 8-2 win over the New York Yankees.
"It's definitely gotten better," said Danks, who has allowed one run or none in four of six starts since ending June with a 5.38 ERA. "I wish it hadn't taken this long and hopefully it'll continue, but I feel good about things right now."
Danks is 4-1 with a 2.09 ERA in 11 career starts in Kansas City, but he's 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in his last three outings on the road.