Lucky Seven: Streaking Royals Finish Sweep of White Sox 6-3
In Sunday afternoon’s series finale with the White Sox, the Royals had three RISP opportunities. Chicago had 14.
With the way the streaking Royals are playing right now, it didn’t matter.
Kansas City hit two more home runs and swept away the White Sox 6-3 for their seventh-straight victory. They overcame yet another start in which James Shields wasn’t at his best. At 36-32, the Royals head to Detroit for a four-game set just 1.5 games back of the Tigers. Usually, such magic could be credited to the infamous James Shields lucky shirt (Ryan is now 11-0 while wearing the shirt in Shields starts). Considering how the team is playing, though, I think they deserve all the credit.
Eric Hosmer got things going early for the Royals. Just three batters into the game, he launched a two-run home run to dead center off of Chicago starter Anthony Rienzo. Hosmer’s fourth homer of the year was also his third in his last seven games, continuing to make fans believe he has found the power that was so absent in the first two months of the year.
James Shields took the hill with a 2-0 lead, but quickly gave up a leadoff triple to Chicago center fielder Adam Eaton. In the next at bat, Shields appeared to have picked Eaten off third base, but home plate umpire Paul Emmel ruled the play a balk. Eaton was allowed to score as a result, making the score 2-1 Royals.
Furious, Shields came within reach of getting ejected by pointing at the mound, screaming “look where my foot is.” Manager Ned Yost rushed on the field to protect his ace, getting ejected in the process. Had Yost not been so quick to get the attention of Emmel, Shields may have been tossed for the first time in his career.
Following the balk, Shields settled down to toss yet another quality start. Still not exactly razor sharp, James managed to get through six innings, yielding three runs on ten hits while striking out three. The White Sox had RISP opportunities in five of Shields’ six innings, but he managed to lock down Chicago to constantly keep the Royals in front. An Alejandro De Aza two-run double in the fourth was the other run-producing hit Shields allowed en route to earning his eighth win on the season. As a comparison, the Royals’ ace didn’t earn his eighth win last year until August 16.
The Dale Sveum-led Royals offense continued to give Shields some of the best run support among AL starters with two more home runs. With two outs in the third, Billy Butler was hit by a pitch with two strikes. Alex Gordon then walked; in the at bat, he took a borderline ball three pitch that left Chicago starter Rienzo boiling at the umpiring crew. Rienzo then fell behind Salvador Perez, who eventually hammered a 2-1 fastball into the left field seats for a three-run bomb. His seventh long ball of the year stretched Kansas City’s lead out to 5-1, and in the next inning, Jarrod Dyson singled home Mike Moustakas to give the Royals their sixth run.
Francisely Bueno, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland worked three scoreless innings of relief to nail down Shields’ win and secure the Royals’ sweep. Davis struck out two more batters in what was his 20th straight outing without allowing a run. Holland worked out of a two-on, two-out jam to earn his AL-leading 20th save in 21 chances.
In 52 games where Pedro Grifol was the Royals’ hitting coach, the team hit 20 home runs. Sveum has served in that position for just 16 games, and Kansas City has already blasted 14 homers. The offense manufactured at least six runs for the ninth time in the Grifol era, and it was the eighth straight James Shields start in which the Royals came out victorious.
The White Sox had RISP opportunities in eight innings, but were just 2-14 in those chances. Shields, Davis, and Holland all made the right pitches when they had to, which is what fans have come to expect from them. All three should be in All-Star consideration as the voting race heats up.
Less than three weeks ago, we were talking about a horrible series that saw the Royals outscored 5-21 to the Houston Astros. That feels like ages ago, seeing as Kansas City is on their longest winning streak since the nine-game stretch from July 23-August 1 last year. The Royals outscored the White Sox 22-6 this weekend, and have now scored 45 runs in their seven-game streak.
Kansas City next heads to Comerica Park for four huge games with the Tigers. Jason Vargas (6-2, 3.30 ERA) takes the mound against a struggling Justin Verlander (6-6, 4.61). If the Royals can manage to take three of four from Detroit, they’ll be in first place upon returning to Kauffman Stadium next Friday. Things are getting fun in Kansas City, and hopefully they stay that way for awhile.