The White Sox finish up a ten-game homestand with a weekend series against the Royals. Currently, the Sox are 3-4 on the homestand after dropping three of four to the Tigers. The Royals are making the first stop on a three city, nine-game road trip, and are fresh off a 5-2 homestand against the Tigers and Orioles. This season, the Sox are 5-4 against KC and won the only meeting in Chicago: the opening series of the year.
The series opener on Friday night will have James Shields (4-7, 3.24 ERA) taking on Jose Quintana (5-2, 3.61 ERA).
Shields has received a bit of the Chris Sale treatment this year. His record is more a reflection of his lack of run support than poor pitching, as he’s turned in quality starts in 16 of his 21 outings this year.
This will be the fourth time the Sox face Shields this year, and they have won two of the three games he has pitched. Interestingly enough, Shields’ last start against the Sox was his worst of the year, but that was the start the Royals won. Overall, Shields is 0-1 with a 2.37 ERA and a 1.158 WHIP against the Sox this year. He has struck out 19 batters in 19 IP while issuing five walks. If you are looking for a pick-to-click, you might want to try Dayan Viciedo (.364), Alexei Ramirez (.382, 2 HR’s) or Alex Rios (.280, HR).
Quintana has had a pretty good month of July, posting a 2-0 record with a 2.36 ERA and holding opponents to a .224 batting average. He is also striking out over nine batters per nine innings compared to 6.4 batters during the first three months of the year.
Quintana has made two starts against the Royals this year and did not factor in the decision in either start. He’s recorded 4.35 ERA and a 1.355 WHIP against KC in 2013, allowing five runs on 11 hits in 10.1 innings of work with seven K’s and three BB’s. Alcides Escobar (.357), Mike Moustakas (.500, 2 HR’s) and Salvador Perez (.308, HR) have handled Quintana in the past.
The middle game of the series will be a Saturday night game and will have Wade Davis (4-9, 5.92 ERA) facing off with Chris Sale (6-9, 2.81 ERA).
Wade Davis has been a disappointment for the Royals after coming over with Shields from the Rays in the off-season. While his ERA is approaching 6.00 on the year, he has also allowed nine unearned runs, so things could be even worse for Davis. His 1.81 WHIP is also the highest of his career, and he is allowing twice as many home runs per nine innings than he did last year. He is also walking more and striking out fewer batters than a year ago.
So, as you would expect, the White Sox have struggled against him. He has a 2.08 ERA in two starts against the Sox this year, having allowed just three runs in 13 innings. Maybe the third time will be the charm for the Sox against Davis. Paul Konerko (.316, two doubles) and Jeff Keppinger (6-for-9) are the only Sox hitters with any real success against Davis, as current Sox batters have combined to hit .187 with one HR and 21 K’s against him.
After winning the All-Star Game, Chris Sale was rewarded with the typical help from his teammates, which is to say he got none. The White Sox committed three errors behind Sale and scored just two runs (three total) while he was on the mound. As a result, Sale lost his ninth game of the year despite pitching eight innings and allowing two earned runs (four total) on seven hits with 11 K’s and three BB’s.
This will be Sale’s third start of the year against Kansas City. He won Opening Day by shutting out the Royals over seven innings, and he got a no decision back in early May despite pitching 7.1 innings and giving up just one run on six hits. Sale is 5-5 lifetime with a 2.58 ERA in 19 games (eight starts). The Royals have hit Sale pretty well as a whole, with a .299 batting average amongst the current KC players. Billy Butler (.321, three HR’s) has especially been a thorn in the side of the Sox lanky lefty.
The finale of the Sox homestand will be a Sunday matinee game, and the Royals will send Sox killer Bruce Chen (4-0, 1.97) to the mound against fellow lefty Hector Santiago (3-6, 3.38 ERA).
Chen will be making his third start of the year for the Royals after spending most of the year pitching out of the bullpen. In those two starts, Chen is 1-0 with a 0.75 ERA, allowing just five base runners in 12 innings. Overall on the season, opponents are hitting .233 against him. Chen made one relief appearance against the Sox this year, and they tagged him for three runs on five hits in 4.2 innings, hitting two homers off the Panamanian southpaw. The three runs and two homers are both season highs in an appearance for Chen.
Chen’s reputation as a Sox killer really goes back to 2011, when he was 3-1 with a 1.89 ERA against the Pale Hose. Since the start of the 2011 season, Chen is 6-2 against the Sox with a 3.31 ERA. Adam Dunn (.318, HR), Dayan Viciedo (.400, three HR’s) and Paul Konerko (five HR’s) would all be solid pick-to-click options.
Santiago took a loss in his last trip to the mound, and it was his first since June 16. It was one of those starts where Hector wasn’t sharp, and the defense didn’t help out either. The Sox committed four errors in that game against the Tigers, which led to three unearned runs against Hector. However, the number that really got Santiago into trouble was the season high five walks.
Despite the rocky start, Santiago has still been pretty solid since moving into the rotation. His only start of the year against the Royals was one of his best, as he allowed one run on three hits over eight innings with five K’s and one BB. He also had a relief appearance against the Royals back in April and tossed three scoreless innings in that outing. Eric Hosmer (2-for-7, double, HR) is the only Royal with any real success against Santiago.
Keys to the Series
Road Royals: While the Royals have played winning baseball at home in Kansas City, they have not fared well on the road, going 21-27. They were just 2-5 on the last road trip to New York and Cleveland. While there isn’t a large discrepancy in the home/away splits, the Royals have definitely struggled on the road this year. The Sox will look to take advantage of this to try and win the series and finish up the homestand on a winning note.
Changes are a Comin’: The White Sox and their fans are well aware that big changes are coming to the team and organization. Jake Peavy likely made his last start with the Sox Thursday, and it looks like Alex Rios and Alexei Ramirez could also be headed out of town. It is hard to say whether or not the trade discussions are a distraction to the team, but if Rios and Ramirez are moved, the White Sox lineup will have a much different look. The Sox will need the remaining vets and the new kids to step up to help fill the space left by those who may depart.
Defense Anyone?: The Sox played some atrocious defense against the Tigers, and it probably cost them a win or two. Unearned runs continue to pile up, and I just can’t figure out why this team that played such solid defense last year has struggled so much this year. Sox pitchers have not done a great job of pitching over the errors, but when you make three or four in a game, it’s tough to pitch over all of them. Bottom line is that the Sox have a much better chance when they don’t kick the ball around and throw it away.
The matchups in this series aren’t terrible for the Sox, although all three of the pitchers the Royals will run out have given the Sox trouble at one time or another. I think the trade deadline distraction will play a role, and the Sox just don’t seem focused at all out on the field. With performances like the first three games of the last series, one has to wonder if Robin Ventura has lost the team. Maybe some new blood will help after July 31. Who wins the series? Does it really matter?