The White Sox sported a weathered look Wednesday night that doesn't bode well for the remaining 11 games of their 24-game stretch without a day off.
Jose Contreras suffered a rare off night when he allowed a season-high seven runs against Kansas City.
And even a sharp effort by Contreras wouldn't have mattered because the Sox's offense performed listlessly for a second consecutive night in a 10-4 humbling at the hands of the last-place Royals.
The only consolation for the Sox, who avoided being shut out when Alex Cintron hit a ninth-inning grand slam, was that they didn't fall further behind Detroit in the American League Central.
"I think this could be a slap in the face, a wake-up call," manager Ozzie Guillen said after the Sox lost their second straight after a five-game winning streak.
Mark Grudzielanek, who nearly was headed to the Tigers in a trade designed for him to take the place of injured Placido Polanco at second base, celebrated a new contract with the Royals with three hits, including a three-run home run off Contreras that fueled a six-run third.
But a more distressing problem for the Sox was their questionable defense for the second straight night.
In the third, David DeJesus hit a high fly to shallow left. Scott Podsednik sprinted in as Cintron, breaking toward second, tried to retreat.
Both arrived too late as the ball fell safely for a hit.
Grudzielanek, who signed a one-year extension for 2007 with a player option for 2008, lined a Contreras pitch into the left-field bullpen for a 3-0 lead.
"I hung a slider," Contreras said. "I feel bad because I felt so good before the game. I lost concentration after the first homer (to Grudzielanek)."
The failure to catch DeJesus' popup also haunted Contreras and the Sox later in the inning.
With two outs, the Royals strung three hits together, capped by Ryan Shealy's two-run homer.
Contreras hadn't surrendered a home run in his three previous starts.
With two out in the fifth and the right-handed-hitting Angel Berroa at the plate, Cintron fielded a grounder but had to wait too long for Tadahito Iguchi to cover second for a force play that resulted in a hit for Berroa.
"When you make errors, it's a physical part of the game," Guillen said. "But you have to anticipate everything before the ball is hit."
The frustration reached a zenith when Contreras sailed a 1-0 pitch behind Joey Gathright, who bunted successfully for hits in his first two at-bats.
Umpire Phil Cuzzi calmly issued warnings to both teams, and Contreras got out of the jam by striking out Gathright. The 12 hits Contreras surrendered equaled a season high at Pittsburgh on June 29.
In the eighth, DeJesus and Mark Teahen each produced run-scoring hits off Neal Cotts, who has allowed 10 hits in the last 16 at-bats against left-handed hitters.
The Royals' Adam Bernero won his first major-league game as a starter since May 31, 2003, against a Sox lineup that included reserves Ross Gload in right, Rob Mackowiak in center and Cintron at shortstop.
Guillen said he had planned to give right fielder Jermaine Dye a break and told Gload on Monday he would start.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are looking for a left-handed-hitting reserve such as Gload to replace Ricky Ledee, whom the New York Mets claimed on waivers Aug. 9.
The Sox didn't move a runner into scoring position until Paul Konerko advanced Podsednik to third on a double with two outs in the sixth.
Cintron's grand slam in the ninth off reliever Scott Dohmann was the Sox's ninth slam, setting a franchise record.
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