Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Just two days after being shut down by John Danks and his ERA hovering around 5, the Royals found a way to score 5 runs off of one of the best pitchers in baseball, en route to a 6-2 victory over the White Sox. Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar, of all people, hit a pair of dingers off of Chris Sale, and that was more than enough for the Royals to win the series.
Yordano Ventura did his part as well, pitching 7 outstanding innings of 3-hit ball, striking out 7 and walking 2, while allowing only 1 run.
That run came in the top of the 3rd inning, when a pair of singles and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases for the always-pesky Adam Eaton. Ventura allowed a sacrifice fly, but followed that up with 2 consecutive strikeouts to escape the jam, which was the only kind of trouble the flamethrower found himself in the entire night.
The same could not be said for Sale, who allowed more than 4 runs in a start for the first time all season, and he matched that total in 1 inning. In the bottom of the third, Escobar and Nori Aoki strung together a couple of one-out singles, bringing Cain to the plate. Sale jumped ahead 0-2, a count in which most major league hitters severely struggle against regular pitchers. Chris Sale is better than regular pitchers. In his career, Sale had never allowed a home run on an 0-2 pitch.
At least, until tonight.
Cain took a hanging slider over the wall in left-center, giving the Royals an early 3-1 lead. Josh Willingham followed that up with a walk, and after an Alex Gordon strikeout, Salvador Perez blooped a ball into shallow right-center. With two outs, Willingham was running on contact. I mean, I guess it’s considered running, although he’s never been confused for Jarrod Dyson, which wouldn’t make any sense for someone to make that mistake, considering they don’t really share any physical characteristics at all.
More from KC Royals News
- KC Royals Rumors: Is a monster move in the cards?
- KC Royals Free Agent Hunt: 3 Tampa Bay pitchers
- Grading the 2022 KC Royals: The $25 million man
- KC Royals Winter Meetings Tracker: Expectations met
- KC Royals Winter Meetings Tracker: Day 3 update
The ball dropped between a trio of White Sox fielders, and Willingham just kept on chugging toward home. The throw was slightly offline, which allowed Willingham to side-step the tag and touch the plate for the Royals’ fourth run.
With Ventura cruising, no more runs were needed, but that didn’t stop the offense from tacking on a couple more runs. The first came off the bat of Escobar, who hit his first home run since May 11. That dinger also came in a two-strike count against Sale, whose season-long ERA ballooned all the way up to 2.20. No word yet on if the White Sox will consider cutting ties with the obviously-struggling lefty.
The Royals’ final run was scored thanks to a throwing error from Alexei Ramirez in the 7th inning, on what could have been an inning-ending double play. Tonight was not their night.
The White Sox did manage to scratch a run across while facing Wade Davis, who allowed runs in consecutive appearances for the first time since August. Of last year.
While Cain, Escobar, and Ventura were the stars tonight. The series belonged to Aoki, who reached base in 13 of his 15 plate appearances. That’s an on-base percentage of .867. He collected 11 hits, which broke a club record for hits in a three-game series, which was previously held by some guys named Willie Wilson and George Brett. Aoki also starred defensively, making a few terrific grabs in right field to help out his pitcher.
This was a huge win for the Royals, and thanks to a pair of victories by the Twins over the Tigers, the boys in blue find themselves just a half game out before the first-place Tigers come to the K for the next three games. Kauffman Stadium is surely going to be rocking all weekend.
Notes: Billy Butler and Perez combined to go 3-7 with a double and an RBI, hopefully a sign of things to come for the Royals’ slumping sluggers. Escobar now has 18 career hits off of Sale, more than any other player in baseball. Cain has 17 career home runs, and 2 of them have come off of the best left-handed pitcher in the American League. In the 6th, Ventura got a visit from Ned Yost and the training staff, but remained in the game. He dealt with a bit of numbness in his thumb, but only for two pitches, so he’s not concerned.