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Series Preview 25: White Sox at Royals

The White Sox nightmare road trip concludes this weekend with a trip to one of their favorite Houses of Horror, Kaufmann Stadium in Kansas City for a three game set with the Royals.  The Sox are 1-6 on the trip after being swept in Minnesota by the Twins and have lost seven of their last eight total.

The Royals are coming home after a 4-3 road trip to Tampa Bay and Cleveland, where they lost the last two games.  The two teams have split the six games they have played this year with each team winning two out of three at home. 


Pitching Matchups

The series kicks off Friday night with Hector Santiago (2-5, 3.30 ERA) taking on Sox nemesis Jeremy Guthrie (7-4, 3.72 ERA).

The White Sox have been unable to solve the mystery that is Jeremy Guthrie since he joined the Royals last season.  He has made two starts against the Sox this year and is 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA, allowing one run in 15 innings of work.  He has held the Sox to a .170 batting average and a pathetic .189 slugging percentage.  Guthrie went through a rough patch in mid-May when he allowed 18 runs (17 ER) over three starts, including giving up 8 home runs.

Since then he has been pretty solid, posting a 3.20 ERA and a 2-1 record over his last four starts.  His last start however he gave up 5 runs (4 ER) to the Rays and served up three more big flies.  The 19 home runs he has given up this year are the most in the American League.

Alex Rios (.278, 2 HRs), Paul Konerko (.262, 3 HRs) and Gordon Beckham (.269, 2 HRs) have all taken Guthrie deep multiple times and Alejandro De Aza (.353) has also had good success against him.  Adam Dunn meanwhile is just 2-for-22 with 11 strikeouts against Guthrie. 

Santiago will be making his third straight start since rejoining the starting rotation.  He has pitched pretty well in his last two starts giving up 4 runs in 11.2 innings (3.09 ERA) and has held opponents to a .209 batting average.  He has 14 strikeouts but has also issued 7 walks.  As a starter he is 2-3 with a 3.00 ERA and a 1.282 WHIP.

Opponents have hit .214 against him as a starter versus .254 as a reliever and he is striking out over 10 batters per 9 innings.  Santiago has made 7 appearances (1 start) against the Royals in his career and is yet to allow a run in 11.1 innings.  He has held the Royals to a .118 batting average and has struck out 13 batters and issued 6 walks.  Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez, Billy Butler and Alcides Escobar are the only Royals with hits against Hector and they are all 1-for-3.  Jeff Francoeur is 0-for-6 with 5 strikeouts against the Sox lefty. 

Saturday’s game is an afternoon affair that will see Jose Quintana (3-2, 3.86 ERA) facing off against Wade Davis (4-5, 5.18 ERA).

Davis made one start against the Sox this year back on May 5th in Kansas City.  He went 6 innings allowing 1 run on 5 hits with 3 walks and 5 strikeouts and did not factor in the decision in a game the Royals came back to win in extra innings.  Davis’ ERA ballooned to a season high 6.16 at the end of May but since then he has been pretty good.  He is 1-0 with a 2.04 ERA in June (3 starts) and has held opponents to a .246 batting average as opposed to the .347 clip opponents were hitting against him in April and May.

He also has a nice K/BB ratio of 2.5 over that stretch.  Davis has owned the Sox in his career with a 3-1 record and a 1.78 ERA in 8 games (5 starts).  Paul Konerko (.313) is the only Sox player with any real success against Davis as the current players on the roster are hitting a combined .148/.231/.222 against the veteran right hander. 

Jose Quintana will be looking for his first win since May 21st when he takes the hill on Saturday.  He has become the king of the no-decision this year with 9 in his 14 starts.  He hasn’t factored in the decision in any of his last four outings.  In June Quintana has a 4.13 ERA and opponents are hitting .280 against him and slugging an even .500.  He hasn’t pitched great in any of those outings but he also kept the Sox in the game all four times.

Quintana’s lone start against the Royals this year came back on May 5th when he allowed 3 runs on 6 hits over 5 innings in a (big surprise) no decision.  In his career against KC Quintana is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in 4 starts.  Alcides Escobar (.364) and Mike Moustakas (.500, 2 HRs) have had success against Q while Alex Gordon (.143, 3 Ks) and Billy Butler (.125, 5 Ks) have been held in check.

The series and the road trip conclude Sunday afternoon when Dylan Axelrod (3-4, 4.39 ERA) takes on Big Game James Shields (2-6, 2.72 ERA).

Shields has been the Royals equivalent of Chris Sale this season for the Sox, he has pitched well but has nothing to show for it record wise.  Shields has allowed three runs or less in 13 of his 15 starts this season but has received only 3.33 runs per game of support.  The Royals have scored 3 runs or less in 10 of his 15 starts.  Shields has made two starts against the Sox this year and is 0-1 with a 0.64 ERA.  The lone run he allowed was a solo home run to Tyler Flowers on Opening Day.

He has struck out 15 Sox batters and issued just 2 free passes in 14 innings this year.  Lifetime he is 3-4 with a 4.11 ERA against the Pale Hose in 13 starts.  Alex Rios (.292, HR), Alexei Ramirez (.387, 2 HRs) and Gordon Beckham (.353, HR) have had success against Shields while Paul Konerko (.147, 11 Ks) and Adam Dunn (.067, 7 Ks) have not.

Dylan Axelrod will be looking for a better performance than the last two times out.  He has allowed 11 runs (10 ER) on 18 hits (4 HRs) over 10 innings in his last two starts against Toronto and Minnesota.  After allowing 4 runs in the first inning of his last start he settled down and was able to make it through 6 innings allowing just 1 more run and allowed the Sox to get back into the game before the bullpen blew it in the 8th.

Axe made one start against KC back in early May and pitched well in a losing effort.

He went 7.2 innings allowing 2 runs on 8 hits with 1 walk and no strikeouts.  Lifetime against the Royals he is 1-1 with a 1.86 ERA in 2 games (1 start).  Eric Hosmer (3-for-5) and Salvador Perez (2-for-4) have had some success against Axelrod in limited plate appearances. 


Keys to the Series

Pitching Struggles: The Sox have relied on their starting pitching this year and for the most part it has been up to the task.  The last week though, the pitching has struggled.  The Sox pitching staff has posted a 5.51 ERA in the last 6 games and opponents are hitting .294 against them.

They have also served up 10 home runs to opposing batters who are slugging .881 against the Sox in the last week.  While most of the Sox struggles this season can be blamed on the offensive struggles, the pitching staff has been an equal partner in this latest Sox swoon.

The Sox will send couple pitchers to the mound this series that have fared well against the Royals and hopefully that will help the staff get back on track.

Royal Pains: Likewise the Royals are throwing three pitchers that have dominated the White Sox this year and over the course of their careers.  It doesn’t seem to matter who it is on the mound in the Royal blue cap, when they face the Sox they are aces.  Shields, Davis and Guthrie are 4-1 and have allowed just 4 earned runs to the Sox as members of the Royals.

Eventually the law of averages has to kick in and the Sox have to score some runs against these guys right?  The weird thing is that the Sox have had success against Shields and Guthrie earlier in their careers and everybody has had success against Davis at some point. Whatever it is, the Sox can’t hit these guys right now and they need to figure it out now.

Changes are a comin’: This latest losing streak by the White Sox has them 12 games under .500 for the first time since the end of the 2007 season.

They sit in last place in the bad AL Central and are 10.5 games behind the first place Tigers.  It appears that this season is closing in on the point of no return, if not already there.  Soon the Sox will look to ship off some of their veteran pieces to contenders in an attempt to restock the farm system.  The rest of this team will be playing for their futures with the organization.

There are a lot of questions on this team and the Sox will try and get some answers over the next three and a half months.  Guys need to start playing for their jobs or the Sox will start looking for guys that can.


Outlook

The struggling Sox come into Kansas City, where they can’t win, to face three pitchers that they can’t hit.  I don’t think I am the only one who thinks that this could end badly.  We thought the last road trip was bad, but this one might be even worse.  If the Sox can get a game in this series I will be surprised.  If they are swept again, heads might start to roll on 35th and Shields. 

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