KC Royals Series Preview: Big changes in Chicago

(Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /
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KC Royals
(Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports) /

The KC Royals will face new and old faces and an offense hit by injuries.

So, what to do with a team that deprived itself of a division title with a late September implosion, and whose pitchers gave up almost seven runs per game in losing seven of the club’s final eight?

Improve the pitching, of course, and that’s what the White Sox believe they did.

First, they picked up veteran starter Lance Lynn in a trade with the Rangers. Lynn may be 33 (34 in May), but he went 6-3 with a 3.32 ERA for major league’s worst team last season and won 16 for Texas in 2019. He pitched 4.2 scoreless innings and struck out six in a no-decision start against Los Angeles Saturday, and will face KC’s Brad Keller today.

Then Chicago lured top closer Liam Hendriks to the South Side with a three-year, $54 million deal. A former Royal, Hendriks saved 14 games for Oakland in 2020 and 25 the season before. He has one save so far and has given up two runs in 2.1 innings.

Lynn and Hendriks complement a staff including returnees Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel. Giolito was 4-3 last season with a no-hitter, and 14-9 in 2019. He owns the Royals—he’s won seven of nine career decisions against them with a 2.88 ERA. Keuchel had an excellent 6-2, 1.99 2020 campaign and is also stingy when it comes to KC (6-1, 2.48 in 11 games). Fortunately, Kansas City will probably miss Giolito and Keuchel this series.

Who else is new to Chicago, and who did the ChiSox lose over the winter?

Outfielder Adam Eaton returns to the Sox after four years in Washington. A veteran of 10 big league seasons, Eaton played in Chicago from 2014-20, and has six starts in right field this year. He’s a career .282 hitter with a bit of pop, and twice tied for the AL triples lead.

Other notables new to the White Sox are outfielder and ex-Royal Billy Hamilton and infielder Jake Lamb.

Related Story. Ex-Royals make Opening Day rosters. light

Among Chicago’s non-returnees are hard-to-replace veteran slugger Edwin Encarnacion, starter Dane Dunning (traded to Texas for Lynn), outfielder Nomar Mazara, catcher James McCann, and pitcher Gio Gonzalez. The Sox will miss most of them.

What kind of offense can Chicago generate against the KC Royals?

Offense for the White Sox begins, of course, with first baseman Jose Abreu, last year’s AL MVP and a three-time All-Star who owns three Silver Sluggers and a Rookie of the Year award. Unaffected by last season’s brevity, he slugged 19 homers, led the majors with 60 RBIs and slashed .317/.370/.618.

Then there’s outfielder Luis Robert, a 2020 Rookie of the Year frontrunner until a disastrous September (.136 with one homer) derailed his chances. He still finished with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs and won a Gold Glove. And third baseman Yoan Moncada hit 25 homers in 2019.

Injuries to two key bats have weakened Chicago’s offense. Outfielder Eloy Jiminez clubbed 45 homers and drove in 120 runs in his first two seasons with the Sox, but will miss several months with a ruptured left pectoral tendon. Shortstop Tim Anderson, a power hitter who hits for average and gets on base, is on the Injured List with a strained hamstring and won’t play against the Royals. He homered 10 times, drove in 21 runs, and hit .322 with a .357 OBP last season.

The Sox are averaging six runs per game.