The White Sox bounced back from their awful road-trip by taking two out of three against Minnesota to start their homestand. Next up, the dreaded Kansas City Royals and their Voodoo hex they seem to have over the Pale Hose. The Royals are coming off two straight series losses after sweeping the Tigers.
The Sox are 4-8 against the Royals this year and have lost the last five matchups. The Royals will throw some familiar names to the bump, let’s hope for different results.
Game one on Friday will be Francisco Liriano (5-11, 5.11 ERA) against Luis Mendoza (7-9, 4.48 ERA).
Mendoza will be making his 4th start and 5th appearance against the White Sox this season. In his previous 4 appearances he has gone 2-2 with a 2.96 ERA and a 1.098 WHIP. In 27.1 innings he has struck out 21 batters and walked 8, along with 3 hit batsmen.
His last start against the Sox was back in KC during the sweep, in that start he went 7 innings giving up 2 runs on 4 hits with 6 K’s and 1 BB and got the win. He has pitched at least 7 innings in each of his 3 starts against the White Sox this year; however he has not gone more than 5 innings since that start against the Sox on August 17th. Only AJ Pierzynski has hit Mendoza well in his career (.333, HR). No other Sox player is hitting above .267 (Youk) against Mendoza, although Paul Konerko does have 2 home runs against him.
Liriano will take the bump for the Sox coming off a rocky outing against the Tigers in Detroit. In that start Liriano lasted just 4 innings and threw exactly 100 pitches. His control was once again an issue as he issued 7 free passes to Tigers batters. He struck out 5, gave up 4 hits and 3 runs in the outing and suffered his first loss in a White Sox uniform. In short, he was all over the place.
He will face the Royals for the 3rd time this year but first as a member of the White Sox. In his previous two starts Liriano is 0-1 with a 3.97 ERA and has struck out 14 batters in 11.1 IP. Lifetime against the Royals Liriano is 6-5 with a 4.21 ERA. Brayan Pena (4-for-13, .308) and Eric Hosmer (2-for-6, .333) have the best averages against Francisco, while Billy Butler has the only home run by any current Royals. Overall current Royals batters are hitting just .225 off Liriano with 25 strikeouts and 10 walks in 114 plate appearances.
Game two on Saturday afternoon will matchup a couple of lefties as Chris Sale (15-6, 2.93 ERA) goes against Bruce (Cy) Chen (10-11, 5.28 ERA).
The Sox’ struggles with Bruce Chen are well known, although the reason for it is not. His numbers this year against the Sox are not great, although the Sox are yet to beat him. He is 2-0 with a 5.19 ERA in 3 starts this year against the South Siders. Most of that damage came in the July 13th matchup when the Sox tagged Chen for 6 runs in 4.2 innings, including 3 home runs. In the two matchups since then Chen has given up 4 runs on 12 hits over 12.2 innings.
Two starts ago Chen helped out the Sox by shutting down the Tigers over 8 innings, but his last time out Chen was rocked for 6 runs in 6 innings by the Rangers who took Chen deep four times in that game. Surprisingly the two White Sox players with the best numbers against Chen are the lefties, AJ (.424, 2 HRs) and Dunn (.389, HR). Again, Konerko leads all Sox players with 4 home runs off Chen, but has only 8 total hits in 39 career at bats against the Panamanian southpaw. Overall Sox batters are hitting .232 with 10 homers in 267 at bats off Bruce Chen.
For the Sox Chris Sale is looking to bounce back from back-to-back losses for the first time this year. Sale battled through 6 innings in Detroit on Sunday night but the one pitch to Delmon Young that left the ball park cost him three runs and the game.
Sale has allowed a home run in 8 consecutive starts, giving up a total of 12 over that stretch. He has also walked 3 or more batters in a game 4 times in the last 8 starts, after having only done it twice in the previous 16 starts. This will be his 5th start of the year against the Royals. In the previous four he is 2-2 with a 3.25 ERA. His last start against the Royals was in Kansas City on August 17th when he allowed 4 runs over 6.2 innings, including two home runs, and took the loss.
Billy Butler is his biggest nemesis on the Royals. Butler is hitting .353 with 3 home runs in 19 plate appearances. Lorenzo Cain (4-for-11, HR) and Salvador Perez (4-for-10, 2 doubles) have also had success against Sale. Kansas City batters are hitting .275 with 5 home runs in 120 at bats against the Sox lefty.
The finale of the series on Sunday will feature Jeremy Guthrie (7-12, 5.34 ERA) likely going against Hector Santiago (3-1, 3.71 ERA).
I have no idea what to make of Guthrie. While pitching for the Rockies earlier this year he was 3-9 with a 6.35 ERA. Then he comes over to the Royals in a trade and, after a rough couple of starts, is 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA since the start of August. In fact, with the exception if one game in Boston where he gave up 6 earned runs, he hasn’t allowed more than 3 earned runs in a game in the last 7 starts. The White Sox haven’t been able to do anything with him the two times he has faced them. Guthrie is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA (he did allow 2 unearned runs) against the Sox with a 0.511 WHIP. Explain that to me. He has allowed just 7 hits and 1 walk in 15.2 innings against the Sox.
This is a guy who’s ERA against the Mariners, Padres and Twins is above 9.00 and yet the Sox can’t do anything with him. It doesn’t make any sense. Alex Rios (.293, 2 HRs), AJ Pierzynski (.300, HR) and Jose Lopez (.333, 2 HRs) have done some damage against Guthrie in their careers, while Adam Dunn and Alexei Ramirez are both hitting below .100 against him.
Robin Ventura said that Hector Santiago will likely get the start on Sunday against the Royals, and there is no reason he shouldn’t. In his first career Major League start on Monday, Santiago was excellent. He allowed just 1 run on 3 hits over 5 innings, striking out 6 and walking three in the win. He threw 91 pitches in the outing before being pulled after walking the first two batters in the 6th inning.
Santiago was stretched out in AAA Charlotte before coming back to the big club and it looks like he could have a future as a part of the White Sox rotation. Against the Royals in his career Hector is yet to allow a run in 4.1 innings of relief work. In fact he is yet to allow a hit to a Royals batter, although he has walked 2 and struck out three. This will be a good test for Santiago as the Royals are a decent hitting team and not nearly as lefty heavy as the Twins lineup.
Keys to the Series
Revenge Tour: This homestand give the Sox a chance to exact some revenge against a couple of teams that recently swept them on the road. It would be nice if the Sox could return the favor, especially to the Royals who, despite their play against the Sox, 14 games under the .500 mark. The Sox recent home success, they have won 23 of the last 29 games, should give them the confidence to dispatch the Royals this time around and move on to the next phase of the revenge tour, the Tigers.
Break the Voodoo: The White Sox have seen all three of these pitchers multiple times this year. They have seen them all recently. There is no reason for them not to be able to score some runs against them, especially at US Cellular Field. The three Royals pitchers have allowed 66 home runs this season. The White Sox are 2nd in the Major Leagues with 175 homers. Let ‘er fly boys! Put ‘em on the board! These guys are not that good, and its time the Sox break through against them because just about everybody else in baseball has figured these guys out.
Don’t Look Ahead: The Sox might have gotten caught last week in Baltimore looking ahead to their series with the Tigers. The result was a bad series loss against the Orioles that led them into a bad series in Detroit. This time around, at home, the Sox need to come into the Detroit series playing well, and that starts by taking care of business against the Royals. You will notice a pattern here in the series keys, and that is to take care of business.
At this point in the year, against a team you have already faced three times since the All-Star Break, there isn’t much to break down in terms of numbers. The Sox are the superior team and it is time to start playing like it.
My record in these sections has been pretty spot on, with the exception of the series against the Royals. For some reason I just cannot accept that the Sox keep losing to these guys. The Royals are 24-26 against AL Central teams, and 8 of those wins are against the Sox. I have to figure that the balance of the baseball world shifts in the Sox favor this time. They have to keep winning series and they will win this one and head into the Detroit series on the right foot.
Posted by GSB! Contributor Matt Hoeppner.