Royals vs. White Sox Series Preview (6/13-6/15)
Coming off a 5-2 homestand, the Royals (33-32) are over .500 for the first time since May 18. Kansas City finds themselves just two games behind the suddenly ice-cold Detroit Tigers in the A.L. Central, and they’re just a single game back of the second wild card spot. It doesn’t make any sense how, but after 65 games, the Kansas City Royals are very much so in contention for the playoffs.
Following a two-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians, a third straight series win for the Royals, Kansas City will head to U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago for their first road series of the year with the rival White Sox. The Royals are 3-3 in the season series with Chicago thus far, with all six games taking place at Kauffman Stadium. The White Sox come in to this weekend’s series at 33-33, having won two straight (both against Detroit).
Game 1, 7:10 CT Friday
Jeremy Guthrie (2-6, 4.10 ERA) vs. Jose Quintana (3-6, 3.59)
Guthrie hasn’t won since April 9, a span of 11 straight starts. One of his two wins this year came against the White Sox; he gave up four runs in 5.2 innings while winning the home opener on April 4. In his other start against Chicago this year, Guthrie allowed a season-low three hits in seven splendid inning. He received a no-decision in an eventual 3-1 Royals win on May 21.
The White Sox rank sixth in the majors in runs, headlined by rookie RF Jose Abreu, who has almost out-homered the Royals by himself this year (19 to 31). The long ball has always plagued Guthrie; he has allowed an AL-worst 13 homers thus far.
Guthrie’s opponent, left-handed Jose Quintana, has often been plagued by low run support. Interestingly, Quintana has never beaten the Royals in his career, sporting an 0-4 record in nine starts against Kansas City with an ERA of 4.06. His last start against the Royals was back on May 21, when he opposed Guthrie. He gave up all three runs and took the loss despite going a season-high 7.1 innings.
Quintana is statistically the best of the three starters the Royals will be opposing this series, but if Guthrie can keep the ball in the park, history may repeat itself if Kansas City beats Quintana.
Game 2, 1:10 CT Saturday
Danny Duffy (3-5, 3.26 ERA) vs. Hector Noesi (2-4, 5.40)
Duffy has been terrific in his last two starts, but there’s still a large amount of unknown on which Duffy we’ll see when he takes the mound. If he can continue to keep the ball down and throw strikes, he should be able to handle a White Sox lineup that is above average in most offensive categories.
Opposing Duffy is right-hander Hector Noesi, who has struggled to a 5.40 ERA in eight starts this season. He began the season as a reliever with the Rangers, but was acquired by Chicago in April. Since becoming a starter, Noesi has given up at least three earned runs in five of his eight starts. He also appears to have problems locating the strike zone, having given up multiple walks in four of his last six. In his last outing against Detroit, the Tigers banged three homers against him.
This is a game that the Royals should and need to win. I know what Sarah always says about how we make people who have never faced us look like Cy Young, but if Hector Noesi dominates the Royals, well…I can’t see that happening.
Game 3, 1:10 CT Sunday
James Shields (7-3, 3.44 ERA) vs. Andre Rienzo (4-3, 5.25)
The Royals’ ace will take the hill in the finale of the three-game set. James Shields returned to form on Sunday when he threw six good innings against the Yankees, yielding just one unearned run and striking out eight. At this point, the Royals should expect to win every single time Big Game James is on the mound, and this is no exception.
Andre Rienzo gets the ball for the White Sox; the young righty has struggled as of late. He has failed to get out of the fourth inning in each of his last two starts, both of them losses to the Padres and Angels. Like Noesi, walks are a problem with Rienzo; he has walked 21 and struck out just 38 batters in nine starts. It is worth noting that Rienzo handled the Royals back on May 20, throwing six innings of two-run ball while striking out a career-high eight batters.
I’m sure everyone here knows the story of the James Shields shirt, but the Royals have won 10 of the last 11 times Shields has started. Should the two teams split the first two games, it is worth noting that Kansas City is 9-1 when Shields starts series rubber games.
You can never predict a sweep one way or the other, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Kansas City won all three games this weekend. The Royals will certainly leave the windy city disappointed if they can’t take at least two of three from the rival White Sox. The first game is definitely the most difficult matchup on paper, so I’ll be diplomatic and predict that the Royals will win games two and three, good enough for a fourth straight series win. Kansas City has a crucial four-game set in Detroit after this matchup, so they must be careful to not overlook the surging White Sox. Hopefully, it’s a good weekend, and Hawk Harrelson is one sad man at about 4:00 on Sunday afternoon.