Series Preview 41: White Sox at Royals

The White Sox continue a road trip with a three-game series in Kansas City starting Tuesday night. Coming off their first road series win since July 9-11 in Detroit, the Sox have won back to back series for the first time since late May. Kansas City is coming off a series in Detroit where they dropped three out of five and now sit in third place in the AL Central, 8.5 games behind the Tigers.

The Sox are 5-7 against the Royals this year and 3-3 at Kauffman Stadium. K.C. swept the Sox in Chicago the last time they played, holding the Sox offense to just three runs in the three game series. 

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday night, the Sox will send John Danks (2-10, 4.54 ERA) to the mound to take on Ervin Santana (8-6, 3.19 ERA).

Santana was the subject of trade talks leading up to the July 31 deadline, but the Royals decided they were still in the race and kept the 30-year-old veteran. He has had a solid season this year with Kansas City and currently boasts the lowest ERA of his career. His walks are down a full walk per nine innings from last year, and his HR/9 has also been cut by a full homer from two to one.  Also, his K/BB ratio is the best it has been since the 2008 season when he finished sixth in the Cy Young voting. 

This will be the second time the Sox see Santana this year, with the first coming all the way back on April 3. The Sox beat Santana that day, scoring four runs on five hits (three HR’s) in six innings. Lifetime against the Sox, Santana is 5-5 with a 4.06 ERA in 15 starts. Alexei Ramirez (.333, HR), Alejandro De Aza (.308, HR) and Tyler Flowers (.400, HR) have had success against Santana.

John Danks will head to the mound in search of his first win since July 2, a span of 8 starts. Five of those eight starts have been quality starts, but in only one of them did he allow less than three runs. Danks continues to suffer from a lack of run support, with the Sox scoring less than three runs per game when he is on the mound.  If nothing else, Danks has been able to eat innings while usually keeping the Sox within the game. He has worked six innings in 14 of his 16 starts and has worked into the seventh inning or later in 13 starts. However, home runs continue to plague Danks, who has now served up 22 bombs in 103 innings.

This will be the first time he faces the Royals this season, a team who he has dominated in the past.  Danks is a perfect 5-0 lifetime against K.C. with a 2.74 ERA in 12 starts. However, he hasn’t faced the Royals since the 2011 season. No current Royals players have a home run against Danks, and Eric Hosmer (4-for-8) and Chris Getz (3-for-4) are the only players hitting over .207 against him. 

The middle game of the series on Wednesday will have Andre Rienzo (0-0, 3.70 ERA) going up against noted Sox killer Jeremy Guthrie (12-9, 4.15 ERA).

Guthrie has been decent for the Royals this year, with periods of great pitching followed by periods of bad pitching. Overall, he’s been solid, but things have not gone his way lately though, as he’s lost his last two decisions while giving up nine runs on 23 hits in just 13 innings. Red Sox and Tigers batters hit a combined .397 against Guthrie in those two starts, but in the three starts preceding those, Guthrie was 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA with opposing batters hitting only .211 against him. It’s hard to know which Guthrie will show up on any given day. 

This is Guthrie’s fourth start against the White Sox this season. The first two resulted in wins for Guthrie, who allowed only one run in 15 innings with a complete game four hit shutout. The next time around, the Sox finally got to him, knocking him out in the third inning and hanging six runs on him. It was the Sox’s first against Guthrie in the last seven starts. Lifetime, he is now 6-6 with a 3.30 ERA against the Sox.  Paul Konerko (.256, 3 HRs) and Gordon Beckham (.259, 2 HRs) are the only Sox players to homer against Guthrie, while Adam Dunn and Dayan Viciedo are a combined 4-for-36 (.111) with 18 strikeouts against him. 

Andre Rienzo is still looking to become the first Brazilian to win a Major League game, but it really isn’t his fault that he hasn’t gotten in the win column yet. Rienzo has made quality starts in three of his four big league outings and left the game with the lead, only to see the bullpen give it up. While he hasn’t been great, he has certainly been good enough to get a win.

He’s held opposing hitters to a .228 batting average, but needs to cut down his walks from 4.1/9 innings. Last time out against the Twins, he did not issue a walk, so that’s a good sign.  This will be the first time the Royals get a look at Rienzo, who has made all of his starts against AL Central opponents (CLE, DET, MIN twice). 

The finale of the series and the road trip will be Thursday night when the Sox send Jose Quintana (7-4, 3.66 ERA) to the bump against “Big Game” James Shields (8-8, 3.19 ERA).

Shields is the Royals ace and workhorse at the top of the rotation. He is averaging 6.7 innings per start and has worked into the seventh inning or later in 16 of his 26 outings. Despite 20 quality starts this year, Shields’ record is just 8-8, as he has been the victim of lack of run support. The Royals average just 4.01 runs per game when Shields pitches and have scored three runs or less 14 times.

This will be the fifth time the Sox face Shields this year. In the first four meetings, Shields is 1-1 with a 1.73 ERA against the Sox. The Sox scored four runs off Shields on June 23, but in the other three starts, the Sox have one total run in 21 innings. Alexei Ramirez (.395, 2 HRs), Gordon Beckham (.318, HR), and Dayan Viciedo (.462) have the best career numbers against Shields. 

Jose Quintana continues to pitch well for the Sox in his second season in the big leagues.  He has now surpassed last year’s inning total in the same amount of games. His hits per nine innings are down 0.8 from last year, his walks are down a little (0.2), and his strikeouts are up by over two (from 5.3 to 7.4).

This will be the fourth start of the year for “Q” against the Royals. He is 0-1 on the season with a 3.63 ERA against K.C., and Royals batters have hit .254 against him. Quintana’s last start against the Royals was a loss, but it was his best outing against them of the year, going seven innings and allowing just two runs on six hits. Of course, the Sox only scored one run in the game, and he took the loss. Mike Moustakas (.438, 2 HRs) and Salvador Perez (.313, HR) have given Quintana problems in the past.

Series Notes

Now or Never: After failing to make up any ground and actually losing a game in the standings to the Tigers over the weekend, the Royals are going to be in desperation mode. They currently sit 8.5 games back with the Indians in front of them as well. The Royals’ Wild Card hopes aren’t much better, as they are 6.5 games behind Oakland with Baltimore and Cleveland in front of them. While the season certainly isn’t over, with only 39 games left, they are running out of time. The Royals need to take advantage of this homestand where they play six of seven games against sub-.500 teams, plus a make-up game with Wild Card leader Tampa Bay. Injuries are also playing a factor for K.C. with Lorenzo Cain on the DL and Mike Moustakas dealing with a sore left calf. 

Garcia’s Impact: Since the deal that sent Alex Rios to Texas and allowed Avisail Garcia to step into the starting lineup, the White Sox are 6-4, including winning five of their last seven games.  Garcia has hit .297 over that 10-game stretch with four extra base hits, five RBI, and six runs scored. He has also played solid defense and shown off his strong throwing arm on more than one occasion.

Clearly, he has shown many of the tools that the Sox saw in him. The power hasn’t shown up yet, as he is still looking for his first White Sox home run. With his size and the jet stream at U.S. Cellular, it is only a matter of time.

Looking Like a Real Team: The White Sox have perked up a little bit lately, finally getting back in the win column on the road and winning back-to-back series. In fact, the Sox have won three of the last four series, including that sweep over the Yankees in Chicago. They have also won nine of the last 14 games. The offense has perked up, and the defense has, for the most part, improved. Obviously, this doesn’t mean much, but I have seen more than a few people say that they are finally playing the way they people expected them to play. It could be a good sign of things to come, or just a stretch of decent baseball they were bound to stumble upon at some point. For those of you keeping track, the Sox still have the third worst record in baseball, only one game better than the Marlins. They will need to win 14 of the last 39 games to avoid losing 100 games for the first time since 1970.