For the KC Royals, their four-game road series with the White Sox that kicks off with a doubleheader this afternoon can’t bear any resemblance to the teams’ recent series in Kansas City.
The bitter taste of that three-game set hasn’t gone away. The White Sox caught Kansas City hurting—the Royals had just been swept and booted out of first place in the American League Central by Cleveland, and were reeling from five straight losses.
Chicago showed no mercy. The Sox outscored the Royals 21-4 and won all three games at The K. Call it an embarrassment, because that’s what it was. Kansas City couldn’t hit—the Sox shut the Royals out the first game, allowed them only a run in the second, and held them to three in the finale. KC’s pitching also wasn’t good and allowed Chicago nine runs in both the second and third games.
Now, Kansas City limps quietly into the Windy City after lowly Detroit finished off its own sweep of the Royals at Comerica Park Thursday afternoon. The Royals are a team trapped in a tailspin, losers of11 in a row and three straight series, and trail Chicago by 6.5 games.
The White Sox, on the other hand, are flying high. They’ve won six games in a row, eight of their last 10, and 16 of 21.
This, then, is not the best time for Kansas City to re-engage the AL Central leaders. Simply put, the Royals can’t afford another series sweep. A series loss would be bad enough, a sweep could be crushing.
Yes, there will be 124 games left when this series with the Sox concludes Sunday. But if Chicago sweeps them again, the Royals will find themselves eight games under .500 and 10.5 games out of first, deficits hard to overcome at any point in a season.
Chicago’s rotation will present a challenge for the KC Royals’ hitters.
Avoiding a fourth straight sweep won’t be easy. The White Sox probably have the best rotation in the AL—Chicago’s starters boast the league’s lowest ERA (2.95), lead in shutouts with three and complete games with three, and are holding opponents to a league-best .201 average. Unfortunately, the Royals are set to face four of those starters, two of whom handled them easily last week in Kansas City.
Lucas Giolito (2-4, 4.54) opens against KC today. He kept the Royals quiet in the second game last week, allowing just a run on four hits in five innings. Michael Kopech (2-0, 1.61) pitches the second game. Staff ace Carlos Rodon (5-0, 0.58) struck out eight in six scoreless innings against Kansas City last week and gets the nod Saturday, and Dylan Cease (2-0, 2.80) goes Sunday.
Facing those four is a tough assignment for any club, but especially for Kansas City, a currently quiet team barely averaging three runs a game during this ugly 11-game skid. Hunter Dozier hasn’t had a hit in his last 30 at-bats and is batting.140; Jorge Soler is mired in a lengthy slump, hitting.195 with just three home runs; and Michael A. Taylor’s average has dropped almost 30 points since May 1. As a team, timely hitting is almost non-existent, and the club’s average against the Sox is only .190.
To avoid another sweep, the KC Royals will need improved starting pitching.
With the exception of Danny Duffy, who unfortunately won’t pitch this weekend, and starter-turned-reliever (soon to become starter again?) Kris Bubic, the KC Royals obviously haven’t pitched well recently—good pitching, after all, makes losing 11 straight games hard to do—and the starters as a whole haven’t lasted long enough all season. Whether things improve on the mound against Chicago certainly remains to be seen.
The KC Royals’ best chances may come in today’s doubleheader. Brad Keller, (2-4, 7.31), whose six-strikeout, three-run, six-inning effort against the Sox last week was one of his best games of the season, pitches the first game. Jakob Junis returns in the nightcap for his first start since Daniel Lynch’s promotion bumped him back to the bullpen. Junis is 1-3, 5.14, but 1-1, 3.80 with 24 strikeouts in 21.1 innings as a starter. He surrendered a run in one inning against the White Sox Sunday.
Mike Minor draws the unenviable task of facing Rodon Saturday evening. Minor gave Chicago five runs in five innings last Sunday, although he struck out seven.
And Brady Singer (1-3, 4.18) pitches Sunday afternoon against Cease. Yet to face the White Sox this season, his only win came against Cleveland April 24. (He lost one of the two games he started last year against Chicago).
So, the pitching matchups appear to favor Chicago, and the KC Royals aren’t hitting. That’s a bad mix for a team trying to right itself, snap an ugly losing streak, and avoid the fourth straight sweep it can’t afford. Four losses this weekend could create too deep a hole for this club to crawl out of.
First pitch for today’s first game at Guaranteed Rate Field is set for 2:10 p.m. CDT, with the second slated for 7:10 p.m. Saturday evening’s game starts at 6:10 p.m. Sunday’s series finale is scheduled for 1:10 p.m.