Showing posts with label Kansas City Royals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kansas City Royals. Show all posts

Thursday, April 27, 2017

White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana has his first win of 2017

Jose Quintana
Here's a sentence I did not think I would type at any point this season: The White Sox are tied for first place entering Thursday's games.

The South Siders completed a three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals with a 5-2 victory Wednesday, improving their record to 11-9. The Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians also are 11-9, creating a three-way tie atop the AL Central.

Sox left-hander Jose Quintana (1-4) finally got in the win column Wednesday, as he pitched six innings of two-run ball with a season-high 10 strikeouts. It easily was Quintana's best performance so far, as he entered the outing with an uncharacteristic 6.17 ERA and 5.69 FIP in his first four starts.

In fairness to Quintana, the Sox scored only four runs combined for him in those four games, so wins would have been hard to come by even if he had pitched well.

But Wednesday, the Sox handed him a 2-0 lead on RBI doubles from Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier in the first inning. The lead eventually slipped away as the Royals nicked Quintana for single runs in the fifth and sixth innings. With the scored tied at 2, it looked as if Quintana might be destined for a no-decision.

Alas, the Royals (7-14) are in a deep slump right now -- seven losses in a row -- and they seem to be inventing ways to lose games. A really, really bad pitch by Kansas City starter Nate Karns (0-2) allowed the Sox to grab the lead back in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Karns had been fooling the Sox's right-handed hitters all day with breaking balls in the dirt. Avisail Garcia was retired on pitches down and out of the zone in each of his first two at-bats Wednesday, and in his third at-bat, he swung and missed badly at a Karns breaking pitch that was down, outside and well out of the zone to open the sequence.

You got the feeling that Karns would retire Garcia again if he just stayed with his offspeed pitch. Instead, on the 0-1 count, he thought he'd go ahead and try to sneak a middle-in fastball past Garcia. The Sox right fielder was ready, and he clubbed the pitch 451 feet to center field for a two-run homer that put Chicago ahead, 4-2. Horrible pitch selection by Karns, and even worse execution.

Quintana's day was done after six innings, but he was then in line for the win. Leury Garcia's solo home run in the seventh made it 5-2, and four Sox relievers combined to throw three scoreless innings to put away the game.

David Robertson worked the ninth inning to earn his fifth save in five chances. His ERA is down to 1.17, for all those clubs out there who are in need of bullpen help. (I'm looking at you, Washington Nationals.)

The Sox probably won't stay in first for long. Thursday is an off day, while Detroit and Cleveland are both in action. At least one of them likely will win and drop the Sox down the standings, but it's nice to be at the top -- if only for a day -- during a rebuilding season.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

One thing White Sox manager Rick Renteria did Tuesday that I liked

The White Sox pounded the Kansas City Royals for the second straight night Tuesday, totaling 14 hits in a 10-5 victory.

There were a number of good offensive performances:
  • Todd Frazier had two doubles, a sacrifice fly, three runs scored and three RBIs.
  • Leury Garcia went 3 for 4 with two RBIs and a run scored.
  • Avisail Garcia had three hits, including a double, with two runs scored and an RBI.
  • Omar Narvaez reached base four times with two singles and two walks, plus two RBIs and a run scored.
The Sox finally solved Kansas City ace Danny Duffy (2-1), scoring six runs on nine hits off the left-hander in 4.2 innings.

But all that offense aside, I really liked how Sox manager Rick Renteria kept shaky starting pitcher Dylan Covey on a short leash.

In the ideal world, Covey would be continuing his development in the minor leagues right now. But as a Rule 5 draft pick, he needs to remain on the big league roster or be offered back to the Oakland A's. So, he's serving as the Sox's No. 5 starter for now, and predictably and understandably, he's struggling.

He needed 86 pitches to get through four innings Tuesday night. There was a lot of traffic on the bases while he was in the game: He allowed three hits, walked three and hit a batter. In that context, he's fortunate to only give up two runs in those four innings.

The Sox (10-9) were leading, 4-2, after four innings, and it had to be tempting for Renteria to send Covey back to the mound to try to complete the fifth inning and become eligible for his first major league win.

Wisely, Renteria resisted the temptation. Covey was laboring, so the Sox went to their bullpen. Dan Jennings (2-0), Anthony Swarzak and Nate Jones combined to keep the Royals (7-12) off the scoreboard for the next four innings. Meanwhile, the Sox lead swelled to 10-2 going to the ninth.

Chris Beck, who was recalled Tuesday after Zach Putnam went on the disabled list with elbow inflammation, gave up three runs in the ninth to make the score look more respectable for the Royals.

But, one of the keys to victory was Renteria understanding that sticking with Covey any longer would have led to problems. The bullpen was rested after Miguel Gonzalez provided the Sox with eight quality innings Monday night, and using the relievers to secure that win was the correct move. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Matt Davidson makes case for more playing time

Matt Davidson
The White Sox leader in home runs and RBIs through 18 games is ... Matt Davidson?

Yes, that's correct.

Davidson went 3 for 4 with four RBIs and his team-best fourth home run of the season Monday, leading the Sox (9-9) to a 12-1 win over the Kansas City Royals (7-12).

The 26-year-old has 14 RBIs, which is tied for the team lead with Avisail Garcia, but Davidson has posted that total in only 40 plate appearances, while Garcia has 72 plate appearances.

Davidson has been the source of much consternation among Sox fans because he hasn't been playing every day. Before Monday's rout, Davidson had not started any of the previous four games.

I can at least understand manager Rick Renteria's logic. In those four games, the Sox faced a strong contingent of right-handed pitchers -- Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees, and then Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar of the Cleveland Indians.

None of those pitchers is a good matchup for Davidson, who has struck out 12 times in his 24 plate appearances against right-handers this season. The flip side to that argument? Davidson also has three home runs against righties, so perhaps he's hot enough right now that "handedness" doesn't matter so much.

Davidson was in there Monday against Kansas City left-hander Jason Vargas (3-1), and he laced an opposite field homer in his first at-bat. But perhaps his best swing came in the bottom of the sixth inning, when he delivered an RBI double on the ninth pitch of an at-bat against Royals reliever Peter Moylan, who is a side-winding right-hander. Davidson fought off a couple tough 3-2 pitches, then found one that he could shoot into the right-center gap for a hit.

Later in the sixth inning, during which the Sox scored eight runs, Davidson hit a two-run single off the left-field wall that had an exit velocity of 110 mph. He hit the ball so hard that he couldn't make a double out of it. That one was off a left-handed pitcher, reliever Travis Wood.

The question for Renteria is this: Does he continue to spot Davidson in matchups that are favorable for him? Or does he take the training wheels off, throw Davidson in there against everybody -- even tough right-handers -- and find out whether this hot start is for real?

When I look at Davidson's slash line of .368/.375/.789, I can't help but think "small sample size." But the longer this goes on, the more calls we are going to hear for more playing time for Davidson. That especially will be the case if the left-handed side of the DH platoon, Cody Asche, continues to struggle. Asche is 2 for 35 and has yet to record an extra-base hit in 38 plate appearances.

We won't know Tuesday whether Renteria is going to change course. The Royals are starting their best pitcher, left-hander Danny Duffy, so that means Davidson is going to play. We'll see what the Sox manager does the next time the team faces a less-than-elite right-hander.

Speaking of right-handers, Miguel Gonzalez (3-0) continues to roll for the Sox. He went eight innings Monday, allowing only one unearned run on two hits. He struck out five and walked one, and lowered his ERA to 2.00 over four starts and 27 innings. He's been the Sox's best pitcher this month. Who would have thought that? 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Jose Abreu questions White Sox's 'desire to win' after latest Kansas City crapfest

Jose Abreu
The White Sox lost three out of four games against the Kansas City Royals over the weekend. This is not news. The Sox lose to the Royals all the time.

What made this interesting is we finally saw a sign that somebody on the team is as sick and tired of losing to Kansas City as we fans are.

Slugger Jose Abreu credited the Royals for their "desire to win" and "hunger to win games and to be good" in an interview with MLB.com's Scott Merkin after Monday's 8-3 loss in Kansas City.

In a follow-up question, Abreu was asked whether the Sox possessed that same desire to win.

"No," Abreu said, while shaking his head.

Are any other words necessary after that? Not really, but just look at these facts:

  • The Sox finished 5-14 against Kansas City this year.
  • The Sox lost all six series against the Royals in 2016, and have lost the past seven series between the two teams dating back to last year.
  • The Sox are 18-39 against the Royals during the three seasons Abreu has been on the team.
  • The Sox had the lead in nine out of 10 games at Kauffman Stadium this year, and they still managed to go 2-8.
  • The Sox blew five games against the Royals this season in which they had the lead in the seventh inning or later.
  • The Sox went 1-7 in one-run games against the Royals this season.
  • The Royals are 71-40 in the last 111 games between the two teams dating back to 2011.
All of this is ridiculous. The Sox look unprepared and intimidated every time they face the Royals. Consider, the series before this, Kansas City was swept at home and outscored 43-12 in four games by the lowly Oakland Athletics. Yes, the Royals are the defending World Series champions, but that was 2015, and this is 2016. You cannot convince me the Royals have *that much* more talent than the Sox.

For Kansas City to own the Sox like this is unacceptable, and it's about time somebody on the team said something about it. The question is, what are the Sox going to do about it for next year?

Hopefully, at least part of the answer will be a change in leadership in the dugout. This whole business of getting killed by AL Central opponents has gone on long enough.

Monday, September 12, 2016

White Sox lose two out of three to Kansas City

Carlos Rodon
Nothing brings out the worst in the White Sox quicker than the sight of Kansas City Royals uniforms in the other dugout. The Sox dropped two out of three at home to Kansas City over the weekend. They have lost all five series they have played against the Royals this season, and are now just 4-11 against Kansas City this year.

Here's a look back at the weekend that was:

Friday, Sept. 9
White Sox 7, Royals 2: The late-season surge continues for left-hander Carlos Rodon, who settled down after a shaky first inning to win his fourth consecutive start and fifth straight decision.

Rodon (7-8) went six innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on six hits. He struck out nine and walked two while lowering his ERA to 3.80. He punctuated his outing by striking out Royals outfielder Paulo Orlando on a nasty slider with the bases loaded in the sixth inning.

Rodon is now 5-0 with a 1.85 ERA since Aug. 1, a period spanning seven starts. He continues to be a bright spot in an otherwise miserable second half for the Sox.

The Sox offense did have a good showing Friday night, seven runs without the benefit of a home run. The South Siders pounded out 13 hits, and all nine players in the starting lineup either scored a run or drove in a run. Tyler Saladino continued a prolonged hot streak, as he went 3 for 4 with two RBIs.

Saturday, Sept. 10
Royals 6, White Sox 5: Can anyone explain to me why the Sox are suddenly using Chris Beck in a high-leverage role? The right-handed reliever has appeared in five of the last seven games, despite a 7.41 ERA and no real evidence of major league competency.

After a rare decent start by James Shields, Beck was summoned to protect a 4-3 lead in the seventh inning and did not get the job done. He gave up a one-out single to Christian Colon, who was pinch run for by Terrence Gore. The speedy Gore spooked the Sox bench and Beck by his mere presence on the bases. The Sox called for two consecutive pitchouts. Gore stole second base anyway, and Beck walked light-hitting Jarrod Dyson after the "brain trust" foolishly ran the count to 2-0 with the useless pitchouts.

After being issued the free pass, Dyson scored the go-ahead run on Whit Merrifield's two-run double (#typicalWhiteSoxnonsense), and Kansas City never trailed again.

The Sox were behind 6-4 going into the bottom of the ninth. They scored one run off Royals closer Wade Davis, but Jose Abreu and Justin Morneau struck out consecutively with runners at first and third, ending the comeback attempt.

Sunday, Sept. 11
Royals 2, White Sox 0: Ace Chris Sale struck out 12 and became the first Sox pitcher in 20 years to throw eight or more innings in five consecutive starts.

Didn't matter, because for all of Sale's brilliance, the rest of the team stinks.

The Royals got solo home runs from Kendrys Morales and Eric Hosmer, and starting pitcher Ian Kennedy and three Kansas City relievers combined to limit the Sox to just two hits -- both singles by Adam Eaton, one in the first and one in the ninth.

The Sox had another crack at Davis in the ninth, who allowed Eaton's second single and walked Melky Cabrera to put the potential winning run at home plate. But once again, Abreu lined out to right field and Morneau struck out swinging, allowing Kansas City to escape town with another in a long line of series wins over Chicago.

Here are some interesting splits on Sale:
Before the All-Star break: 14-3, 3.38 ERA
Since the All-Star break: 1-5, 2.82 ERA

Sale was chosen to start the All-Star game because of his strong first-half performance. He's been even better the second half, but you'd never know it based upon the won-loss statistics.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

There isn't much more Jose Quintana can do for the White Sox

Jose Quintana -- hosed again
"It's bad when you try everything and you lose."

That's what White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana had to say after Wednesday's 3-2, 14-inning loss to the Kansas City Royals.

Quintana did what he almost always does -- pitch outstanding baseball. He went 7.1 innings, allowing just one run on five hits with five strikeouts and one walk. His ERA is down to 2.85, which is brilliant in the hard-hitting American League.

Quintana's teammates also did what they almost always do -- find a way to squander his terrific performance.

In many ways, this was the prototypical Quintana no-decision. He took a 1-0 lead into the eighth inning, but the Sox could have had more runs than one. They gave away three outs on the bases, went 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 runners. They failed to deliver the big hit with men on base in the fifth, seventh and eighth innings.

Inept offense.

Nevertheless, there was Quintana, industriously protecting a slim lead all game long. He got one out into the eighth inning before a double by Paulo Orlando ended his night after 97 pitches. I would argue that Quintana had earned the right to try to pitch around that, but it was a hot night, and manager Robin Ventura elected to go to the bullpen.

It took Nate Jones exactly one pitch to blow Quintana's chance at victory. Cheslor Cuthbert doubled to tie the score. Have I mentioned that the Royals have a lineup full of guys who love to swing at the first pitch? The Sox still haven't figure that out yet. #typicalWhiteSoxnonsense

The Sox had another chance to win the game in the 11th inning after Tim Anderson's two-out RBI single staked them to a 2-1 lead. Alas, closer David Robertson still isn't able to close. He gave the run right back in the bottom of the inning for his fourth blow save in eight chances since the All-Star break.

There have been five meetings between the Sox and Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium this year, and the Sox have had the lead in the seventh inning in all five of them. Yet, their record in those five games is 1-4. It's fitting that both Jones and Robertson were charged with blown saves in this one. You get the feeling the Sox bullpen couldn't protect a 10-run lead against the Royals in that stadium.

After the second Sox lead was blown, the game took on the feel of an inevitable loss. The Sox lost, all right, when Lorenzo Cain delivered a two-out RBI single off the increasingly useless Matt Albers in the bottom of the 14th inning.

One wonders why Albers (2-5) and his 5.91 ERA continue to appear in high-leverage situations. With the Sox out of the race, would it would be wrong to see how a younger pitcher would react in that spot? Carson Fulmer? Even Michael Ynoa?

Of course, it's not uncommon for me to be puzzled by some of the in-game decisions the Sox make. Nothing new under the sun there.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

David Robertson costs Chris Sale another win; White Sox recover to beat Royals

David Robertson
Kauffman Stadium has been a chamber of horrors for the White Sox, who have repeatedly endured unspeakable losses at the hands of the Kansas City Royals over the past four or five years.

With that mind, there's no way we can be dismayed over the outcome of Tuesday night's game.

Todd Frazier hit a three-run homer -- his 31st of the season -- in the 10th inning to snap a 4-4 tie and lift the Sox to a 7-5 victory over their nemesis from Kansas City.

We'll rejoice in the win, but at the same time, we'll point out that the Sox shouldn't have needed extra innings. Closer David Robertson is struggling. Three of his five blown saves this season have come since the All-Star break, and for the second time in about three weeks, he hurt Chris Sale's Cy Young candidacy by costing the Sox ace a win.

Sale labored early in this game, but he settled down to retire 14 of the final 15 hitters he faced. He went seven innings, allowing three runs on seven hits. He struck out seven and walked one.

The Sox were up, 4-3, heading to the bottom of the ninth inning, and Sale was positioned to pick up his 15th victory of the season.

Alas, Robertson couldn't get it done.

He was in position to work around a leadoff single. He had two outs, although the Royals had the tying run at second base (pinch runner Jarrod Dyson). But for some reason, despite playing Kansas City 19 times a year, the Sox still have not figured out that Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar is a first-ball, fastball hitter.

Robertson threw a fastball right down the pipe on the first pitch, and predictably, Escobar lined it into left field for an RBI single that plated Dyson and tied the game.

Baseball stupid. Typical White Sox nonsense. (I should make that a hashtag.)

Robertson (3-2) got out of the inning without losing the game, but that's about the only positive we can take from that. There's no way to sugarcoat it; that was horrible pitch selection with the game on the line from a veteran who should know better.

The silver lining? Frazier and the Sox were able to hang a loss on Kelvin Herrera, a hated and despised Kansas City reliever who has had the Sox's number in the past.

Herrera (1-4) entered Tuesday night's game with a 1.63 ERA. He had allowed only one hit and one walk over five scoreless innings previously against the Sox this season. In fact, he had allowed only three runs total at Kauffman Stadium all year. He allowed three more runs with one swing of Frazier's bat in Tuesday's 10th inning.

That gave the Sox a 7-4 lead. The Royals scored an unearned run off Jacob Turner in the bottom of the 10th, but Dan Jennings struck out Eric Hosmer to end the game and earn his first career save.

Given the Sox's record in Kansas City, it's a wonder they didn't mob each other on the field in celebration after this victory.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The bizarre won-loss splits of the 2016 White Sox

These numbers are through games of June 23:

White Sox vs. Cleveland: 2-7 (.222)
White Sox vs. Detroit: 2-4 (.333)
White Sox vs. Kansas City: 2-7 (.222)
White Sox vs. all other teams: 30-19 (.612)
Total: 36-37 (.493)

So, the Sox are a combined 6-18 (.250) against the three teams ahead of them in the AL Central standings. I'd say that sums up why the Sox are in fourth place.

Between now and the All-Star break, the Sox play Toronto (June 25-27), Minnesota (June 28-30), Houston (July 1-3), the New York Yankees (July 4-6) and Atlanta (July 8-10).

The Sox have 12 of the next 15 at home (only the Houston series is on the road), and none of them are against the triumvirate of doom known as Cleveland, Detroit and Kansas City. I'd say it would behoove the Sox to make a run right now, although I still will be skeptical even if they do.

The recipe for a playoff spot *must* include wins over Cleveland, Detroit and Kansas City. The Sox have yet to show us they can win against those teams with any consistency.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Robin Ventura's winning percentage is down to .427 against divisional opponents

After a 23-10 start, the White Sox are now reeling, stuck in a freefall that has no end in sight.

They've lost 18 of 24 games. Their record entering Tuesday's play is a mediocre 29-28. Where they once led the AL Central by six games, they now trail the first-place Cleveland Indians by 3.5 games.

Some of these woes can be traced to the Sox's inability to defeat divisional foes, which has been a problem for as long as Robin Ventura has been the manager, if not longer.

The Sox have played 10 of their last 13 games against AL Central opponents. They have gone 1-9 in those 10 games, including nine straight losses. They took the first game of a doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians on May 23, then lost the next three games of the four-game series.

From May 27 to 29, they lost three in a row to the Kansas City Royals, blowing a four-run lead in the seventh inning the first game, a six-run lead in the ninth inning the second game, and a two-run lead in the eighth inning in the finale.

After a brief respite in which the Sox won two of three from the New York Mets in an interleague series, the South Siders were swept in a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers over the weekend. The Sox were outscored 22-9 in the series and generally looked overmatched against a fourth-place Detroit club (which, by the way, is now tied with the Sox for third).

Here's a look at the Sox's divisional record for each season during the Ventura era:

2016: 9-12
2015: 32-44
2014: 33-43
2013: 26-50
2012: 37-35
Total: 137-184

The only winning year against the division was 2012, and even that was skewed because the Sox went 14-4 against the 96-loss Minnesota Twins. They struggled against other divisional foes.

This year, that 9-12 mark is a bit deceiving, as well, because the Sox are 6-0 against a Minnesota club that enters Tuesday's play with a miserable 16-40 record. Against legitimate teams -- such as Cleveland, Kansas City and Detroit -- the Sox are a combined 3-12.

Ventura's winning percentage over four-plus years against his own division is down to .427. Not that his overall winning percentage is very good -- it sits at .462. But the Sox have shown they cannot win critical games under his leadership.

How much longer can the front office allow this to go on? 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Chris Davis gets big bucks from Orioles; Ian Kennedy to Royals

Chris Davis
It pays to be a left-handed slugger. It also pays to have Scott Boras as your agent.

The Baltimore Orioles on Saturday agreed with first baseman Chris Davis on a seven-year, $161 million contract. The deal reportedly includes a limited no-trade clause.

I'm shocked Davis got this kind of money, especially in what has been a cool market for free-agent hitters. Sure, Davis hit a league-leading 47 home runs last year and amassed 117 RBIs, but he's also just two years removed from a 2014 season where he hit just .196 and got suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs.

Also, if you look at the 29-year-old's career, he only had two good years in his 20s -- 2013 and 2015. What in the world makes the Orioles believes Davis will be productive for seven years into his 30s? 

It will not happen, and you have to wonder whether Boras got Baltimore to bid against itself in this deal.

This signing could be good news or bad news if you're a White Sox fan, depending on your perspective. First the good news: the Orioles won't be signing Yoenis Cespedes now. As recently as Friday, we heard reports that Baltimore was offering the free-agent outfielder a five-year deal worth $90 million -- an offer the Sox would be unlikely to match or beat. But now that the Orioles have made their move to sign a hitter, that's one less potential landing spot in play for Cespedes or Justin Upton.

Now for the bad news: If Davis is worth seven years and $161 million, then aren't both Cespedes and Upton now in position to demand at least that much money and years, if not more? If that's what the market will bear, then the Sox aren't going to pay. And I'm not sure they should, frankly.

Kansas City signs RHP Kennedy

Speaking of questionable contracts, how about the Royals giving $70 million over five years to Ian Kennedy?

Kennedy was great in 2011 with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but he's never been able to duplicate that success:

2011: 21-4, 2.88 ERA
2012: 15-12, 4.02 ERA
2013: 7-10, 4.91 ERA
2014: 13-13, 3.63 ERA
2015: 9-15, 4.28 ERA

Kennedy's 4.28 ERA last year came with pitcher-friendly San Diego as his home ballpark, so that doesn't bode well for a smooth transition to the American League.

In fairness, there are a few things that might make this OK for the Royals. First, their outfield defense is much better than San Diego's, and that should benefit a fly-ball pitcher such as Kennedy. Secondly, Kennedy has previously worked with pitching coach Dave Eiland; both were in the New York Yankees system when Kennedy was a young prospect.

Third, the Royals looked similarly foolish when they signed Edinson Volquez, who like Kennedy had his fair share of struggles in the National League. As it turns out, Volquez has turned his career around in Kansas City and been solid under Eiland's tutelage.

Kansas City is obviously banking on a similar improvement from Kennedy.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Alex Gordon agrees to four-year deal with Kansas City Royals

The defending champion Kansas City Royals moved Wednesday to retain a piece of their title-winning core, signing left fielder Alex Gordon to a four-year deal worth $72 million.

Gordon, 32, has spent his entire career with the Kansas City organization after being drafted No. 2 overall in 2005. Since his breakout campaign in 2011, he's posted a .281/.359/.450 slash line, won four Gold Gloves and been credited with 94 defensive runs saved -- second most among major league outfielders (Jason Heyward) during that time.

The White Sox reportedly were interested in Gordon, but according to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal, the South Siders were not willing to give Gordon a fourth year on a contract.

It's unclear at this point whether Gordon was the Sox's "Plan A" in the outfield, or if he was a "Plan B" option. The team has been linked to free agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. It remains to be seen whether the Sox would be willing to give Cespedes, who is two years younger than Gordon, a four- or five-year deal.

As for the Royals, this move solidifies their status as favorites to defend their World Series title in 2016. Kansas City had four key free agents going into this offseason -- Gordon, Johnny Cueto, Ben Zobrist and Ryan Madson. The Royals retained only one of the four, but they kept the most important one in Gordon.

Kansas City has already replaced Madson with the earlier signing of Joakim Soria, and while Cueto and Zobrist are key losses, people have to remember those guys were nothing more than midseason acquisitions in 2015. The Royals were in first place and had the best record in the league long before they traded for Cueto and Zobrist. Those two were never core members of the team. Gordon was and is a key piece to their puzzle.

With Gordon making $18 million a year, it will be harder for the Royals to keep long-term other key players such as Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Wade Davis, all four of whom will hit free agency after the 2017 season.

But that's a problem for two years from now. With this move, the Royals are acting to keep their core together for as long as possible, and there is every reason to believe they will continue to be in the championship discussion for the next two years.

That's an issue for the White Sox and the rest of the AL Central.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Marco Estrada saves the Blue Jays in ALCS Game 5

Marco Estrada was waived by the Washington Nationals in 2010. As a member of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2014, he gave up more home runs (29) than any starting pitcher in the National League. After being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays last offseason, he started 2015 as a relief pitcher.

So, of course, Estrada has been Toronto's best starting pitcher during these playoffs. He turned in the start of his life Wednesday, going 7.2 innings and allowing just one run on three hits as the Blue Jays beat the Kansas City Royals, 7-1, in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series.

Estrada featured precise fastball command and a changeup that had Kansas City hitters off balance all afternoon. He faced just one batter over the minimum through 7.2 innings, before Salvador Perez finally got to him with a solo home run to the opposite field. Alex Gordon followed the home run with a single that ended Estrada's day, but the 32-year-old journeyman had done his job.

With the win, the Blue Jays cut Kansas City's series lead to 3-2. Game 6 is Friday night in Kansas City.

This is the second time this postseason Estrada has come up big in an elimination game. He pitched Game 3 of the ALDS, an outing where he allowed just one run over 6.1 innings in a win over the Texas Rangers. He is now 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA in three postseason starts.

The best news for the Blue Jays: Estrada got deep enough into the game to where they only had to use two relievers: Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna. Toronto ace David Price warmed up during the game, but did not pitch.

That is key, because now Price is available to start Game 6. His mound opponent will be Kansas City's Yordano Ventura, in a rematch of Game 2, which was won by the Royals.

Kansas City is in terrific shape in this series. The Royals play well at home, and they've got two chances to win one game to advance to their second consecutive World Series. But, thanks to Estrada's performance on Wednesday, the Royals still have a little work ahead of them.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Kansas City Royals unsung hero in Game 4 win: Kris Medlen

Here's something I'll bet you didn't know about the Kansas City Royals: Through the first four games of the American League Championship Series, Kansas City starting pitchers have thrown a grand total of 18 innings.

That's right: Royals starters are averaging less than five innings per outing, yet Kansas City owns a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series after its 14-2 thumping of the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday. That should tell you how much the Royals rely on their bullpen and how good those guys really are.

You're probably wondering why I'm declaring Kansas City pitcher Kris Medlen the unsung hero of Game 4, when he didn't even pitch in the game. But reflect back to Monday's Game 3 -- Kansas City's lone loss of the series -- when Medlen came on to replace the ineffective Johnny Cueto in the third inning. The Royals lost, 11-8, but Medlen ate up five innings and saved the rest of the Kansas City bullpen for critical Game 4. Other than Medlen, Franklin Morales was the only Royals reliever to appear in Game 3.

That kept Luke Hochevar, Kelvin Herrera, Ryan Madson and Wade Davis rested and fresh for Tuesday. You figured those guys would be needed, with journeyman Chris Young getting the start for the Royals.

As it turns out, Hochevar recorded the most critical out of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Royals were up 5-2 at the time. Young had done a respectable job to that point, but it probably would not have been a good idea for him to face the middle of the Toronto batting order for a third time.

Ben Revere was on first base with two out. The potential league MVP, Josh Donaldson, was at the plate for Toronto. Here was the Blue Jays' chance to get back in the game. A fresh Hochevar came in from the bullpen and induced a weak foul out off the bat of Donaldson. Inning over.

Hochevar, Herrera, Madson and Morales went on to toss 4.1 innings of scoreless relief. Toronto did not get a runner into scoring position against the Kansas City bullpen until there were two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. And by then, the Royals had scored four runs in the seventh, three in the eighth and two in the ninth against a far weaker Toronto bullpen to put the game out of reach.

The Royals bullpen is the best in the game. They are always tough, but they are even tougher when they are all fresh. They had Medlen to thank for having the rest of the relief corps primed and ready for Game 4. Cueto's short outing could have had an impact on the rest of the series had it not been for Medlen, but after Tuesday's result, that is long forgotten by most people.

Just in general, I think many of us forgot how good the Royals are coming into the playoffs. We all were impressed by the Blue Jays and their big bats and their plus-231 run differential. We installed them as a clear favorite. We pointed to the Royals' 11-17 September and figured Kansas City was a tired team, much like the St. Louis Cardinals were in the National League.

Not really. The Royals were probably just bored in September. They were basically unchallenged in the AL Central this summer. They won their division by 12 games. Now that the lights are on, the Royals are turning up their game again, just as they did last October when they won the AL pennant.

Friday, May 22, 2015

John Danks vs. AL Central: AL Central wins

Whatever good vibes the White Sox generated with their six-game winning streak are gone now, after the team dropped three consecutive games to the last-place Cleveland Indians at U.S. Cellular Field this week.

The latest loss came Thursday night, a 5-2 Cleveland victory that wasn't as close as the final score indicated. The game started at 7:10 p.m. It was basically over by 7:30. Sox starter John Danks gave up four runs in the first inning, including home runs to Nick Swisher and Mike Aviles, and the Indians tacked on another run in the second to seize an early 5-0 edge.

The score remained the same until there were two outs in the bottom of the ninth, when Sox catcher Tyler Flowers hit the traditional, ceremonial meaningless home run to make the score look better in the paper.

The larger trend I took away from this game, though, is that Danks really struggles against AL Central division opponents. The teams than know him best tend to get to him early and often. I checked the numbers, and for the most part, they confirmed my suspicions. Danks is just plain lousy against three of the four teams he pitches against most regularly:

Danks vs. Indians: 5-13, 5.29 ERA
Danks vs. Twins: 7-14, 5.67 ERA
Danks vs. Tigers: 6-10, 5.11 ERA
Danks vs. Royals: 8-1, 2.73 ERA
Danks vs. AL Central: 26-38, 4.83 ERA

The Royals have to be wondering what they are doing wrong. For the Indians, Tigers and Twins, it's a fight at the bat rack when they see Danks is pitching. Those hitters probably can't wait to get to home plate.

Take out the stats against Kansas City, and Danks is 18-37 with a 5.38 ERA against Cleveland, Detroit and Minnesota.

If you're wondering why the Sox can't seem to beat divisional foes these past few years, Danks is among the culprits.

The Sox (18-20) welcome divisional rival Minnesota to the U.S. Cellular Field for a three-game set this weekend. Fortunately, Danks is not slated to pitch in the series. Here are the weekend matchups:

Friday: Jeff Samardzija (3-2, 4.58 ERA) vs. Phil Hughes (3-4, 4.76 ERA)
Saturday: Chris Sale (3-1, 4.36 ERA) vs. Trevor May (2-3, 5.15 ERA)
Sunday: Jose Quintana (2-4, 4.13 ERA) vs. Kyle Gibson (3-3, 2.98 ERA)

Monday, April 27, 2015

White Sox finally beat Royals -- twice in a day

It was anything but business as usual Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field. First off, the White Sox beat the Kansas City Royals not once, but twice -- a rare sight indeed. Secondly, relief pitcher David Robertson threw both the first pitch of the afternoon and the last.

The closer became the first White Sox pitcher to earn both a win and a save on the same day since Bob Howry accomplished the feat in a doubleheader on Aug. 21, 1999.

After Saturday's rainout, the two clubs had to complete Friday's suspended contest, which was tied at 2-2 after eight innings when the showers came.

John Danks got his first win of the season Sunday.
The game resumed in the top of the ninth inning Sunday, and that put Robertson in the unusual position of "starting" the game on the mound. He worked a scoreless inning, pitching over an error by first baseman Jose Abreu, and earned a 3-2 win when the Sox scored a run in the bottom of the inning on a single by Avisail Garcia.

The Sox took the regularly scheduled game, 5-3, as John Danks (1-2) improved his career record against Kansas City to 8-1. Danks walked off the mound in the sixth inning trailing 3-0, but his teammates rallied for five runs in the bottom of the sixth to give him the lead.

The combination of relievers Jake Petricka, Zach Duke and Robertson made it stand up, as the trio combined for three scoreless innings. Melky Cabrera made one of the best catches of the season in the eighth inning for the Sox, robbing Eric Hosmer of a game-tying home run for the final out of the inning.

Robertson wasn't as dominant in his second outing of the day. He gave up two singles, but also fanned two batters to earn his third save of the season.

When these two teams meet, typically it's the Royals who capitalize on mistakes by the Sox to win close games. That script was flipped on Sunday, as it was Kansas City that made the costly miscues.

In the completion of the suspended game, Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera walked Cabrera with two outs and then uncorked a wild pitch to move the runner into scoring position. Herrera's wildness came back to bite him when Garcia's bloop to left-center field fell in and Cabrera came home to plate the winning run.

Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas booted a grounder off Abreu's bat in the sixth inning of the second game, allowing the Sox to score their first run. From there, the South Siders strung together four more singles to surge ahead -- the biggest hit was a two-out, two-run single by Conor Gillaspie that put the Sox ahead 4-3 and sent Kansas City starter Edinson Volquez (2-2) to the showers.

It's been a long time coming for the Sox to win a series against the Royals. Coming into Sunday, they had lost 15 of the last 18 head-to-head meetings. Will this be the day that marks the end of Kansas City's domination of the Sox? We'll find out later in the season. The two teams have 13 more games to play, but they don't meet again until a doubleheader on July 17 in Chicago.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Some thoughts on the White Sox-Royals brawl

You can watch the video here if you haven't already seen the fracas between the White Sox and the Kansas City Royals on Thursday night at U.S. Cellular Field.

For the record, the Royals won the game, 3-2, in 13 innings, and for me as a Sox fan, that's the most frustrating part of the whole evening. The Sox have lost the last five head-to-head meetings with Kansas City, and 15 out of the last 18, dating back to last year.

The Sox cannot call themselves a contender if they're going to continue to allow Kansas City to walk in and kick their ass game after game and series after series. When is enough going to be enough?

The Royals are a good team; they got to the World Series last year for a reason, but let's not pretend they are some sort of juggernaut like the Yankees were in the late 1990s. Even in the loss last night, White Sox pitchers were able to keep the Royals off the scoreboard for 11 consecutive innings. What does that tell you? Kansas City is not some sort of elite fighting force that cannot be stopped. The Royals are beatable. The problem is more with the White Sox, who have developed an identity as a team that cannot execute in clutch situations and routinely beats itself.

That's what I'm mad about today as a Sox fan, much more than the fight.

But looking at the fight, it strikes me as bizarre that Adam Eaton is getting so much blame from Kansas City and its fans. Supposedly, Eaton "said something" to provoke Yordano Ventura, the Royals pitcher. I don't doubt that Eaton "said something," but whatever he said, the home plate umpire had to have heard it. He was standing right there; yet Eaton was not among the five players ejected from the game.

If Eaton had said something that inflammatory toward Ventura, don't you believe he would have been tossed? I do. The umpires seemingly had no reservations about sending the people who were in the wrong to the showers. Ventura, Edinson Volquez and Lorenzo Cain of the Royals were all rightfully ejected, as were Jeff Samardzija and Chris Sale of the White Sox. I firmly believe Eaton would have been ejected if he had deserved an ejection. The umpire, who was standing right there when the whole thing went down, apparently did not see Eaton as the instigator.

I believe Eaton "said something" that was misconstrued by Ventura. That happens. It's part of the game. Both players were apologetic about the incident, and I think fans of both teams should be able to let that part of the brawl go without further discussion.

What went on after that was far more troubling. Cain and Samardzija were instigators. Both were way out of line, both in actions on the field and words after the game. We should expect better from two quality players who should be acting as leaders for their respective teams. I wouldn't be surprised if Samardzija gets the longest suspension of anyone involved in this fracas. As a Sox fan, I'm disappointed in him.

There's no excuse for throwing wild sucker punches on the field, and Volquez merits a lengthy suspension for his actions, as well. There's also no reason for Sale to be anywhere near the Kansas City clubhouse while the game is still going on.

It's time for the managers and the team leaders on both sides to get this nonsense under control, especially Kansas City, which has brawled with three different teams in the first 17 days of the season.

And from a White Sox perspective, it's long past time to man up and start beating the Royals, not with fists and purpose pitches, but rather by playing good baseball.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Same old story for White Sox in Kansas City

White Sox left-hander John Danks is 4-1 with a 1.95 ERA in 11 career starts in Kansas City. In fact, he's 7-1 with a 2.64 ERA in 17 lifetime starts against the Royals.

Unforunately, that one loss was Thursday, as the Royals defeated the White Sox, 4-1, to complete a three-game sweep. Not even Danks' track record of success in Kansas City could prevent the South Siders from sliding to an 0-3 start to the 2015 season.

Like most Sox pitchers, Danks did not have a good spring, and he was shelled by Triple-A hitters in each of his final two exhibition outings. In that context, I think most Sox fans would have been delighted if he had gotten through six innings Thursday and kept his team in the game.

He was one strike away from doing that, but a high changeup to Salvador Perez with two outs in the bottom of the sixth got hammered over the left-field fence, increasing a 2-0 Kansas City lead to 4-0. At that point, the sweep was inevitable.

The two teams traded HBPs throughout the series, and the only reason the Sox got on the board in this game was because Kansas City starter Edinson Volquez was apparently trying to settle the score in that regard in the seventh inning.

Volquez beaned Adam LaRoche with two outs and nobody on base. After a walk to Avisail Garcia, the HBP came around to score on an RBI single by Alexei Ramirez.

If Volquez was trying to send a message, I think he was wasting his time. The Royals sent a much louder message by outplaying the Sox in every facet. They outscored the Sox 21-7 in the series, and the scoreboard was an accurate reflection of the play.

The Royals have now won 14 of the last 17 head-to-head matchups with the Sox, and that's something that's going to have to change if the Sox are to contend in the AL Central this year.

The Sox will now limp home for a three-game weekend series against the Minnesota Twins. If there's a silver lining here, it's that the Twins also are 0-3. Minnesota got outscored 22-1 in its three-game series loss to the Detroit Tigers. We'll find out Friday which team is playing worse, the Twins or the Sox.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

White Sox give fans an Opening Day to forget

Opening Day of the baseball season is supposed to be about new beginnings and new hope. Unfortunately for the White Sox and their fans, Opening Day 2015 proved to be way too reminiscent of 2014.

The Kansas City Royals won 13 of 19 meetings against the White Sox on their way to the American League pennant last season, and they continued their mastery of the South Siders on Monday with an easy 10-1 victory.

You would like to think with all the acquisitions the Sox made over the offseason things would be different now, but at least for one day, the faces have changed but the results remained the same.

Starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija pitched poorly in his Sox debut. His fastball command was erratic at best. His offspeed pitches weren't working at all, and the result was five Kansas City runs on six hits over six-plus innings. Samardzija walked three and hit two batters, and he struck out just one. There wasn't anything good to say about his outing, other than the fact that the Sox were still in the game -- down 4-1 -- when he left the mound in the seventh inning. It could have been worse.

Relievers Dan Jennings and Kyle Drabek also struggled. By the time that seventh inning was over, Kansas City held a 9-1 lead. A 3-run homer by Alex Rios (off Drabek) was the highlight of the frame for the Royals, but in many ways, all five of those runs were gifts.

First off, Samardzija and Jennings each walked a batter to give the Royals two baserunners with nobody out. But it looked like Jennings had a chance to get out of the inning, as he got Lorenzo Cain to ground out and struck out Eric Hosmer. But with runners on second and third and two outs, Sox manager Robin Ventura needlessly ordered an intentional walk of Kendrys Morales.

Ventura wanted the left-handed Jennings to face the left-handed hitting Alex Gordon, but as we discussed when Jennings was acquired, he's not a lefty specialist. He actually gets right-handed hitters out at a better clip than lefties, so giving the Royals a third walk and a third baserunner in the inning was foolish move.

Still, Jennings made the pitch he needed to make to get out of the inning, but a weak grounder by Gordon somehow eluded both Alexei Ramirez and Micah Johnson and squirted into center field for a two-run single and a 6-1 Kansas City lead. It was a play Johnson should have made, but the play is at least partially Ramirez's fault because he jumped in front of the Sox rookie and perhaps screened him from seeing the ball.

The inning should have been over with the Royals still leading 4-1. Instead, it continued and Rios hit his home run to end any doubt on how this afternoon would end.

The Sox looked bad in all aspects, and it was hard not to feel like there wasn't some carryover from a poor ending to spring training. The South Siders had lost their last two exhibition games, a 10-2 drubbing against Arizona and a silly 10-2 loss to the Triple-A Charlotte Knights. Ventura had warned his team that enough was enough, and that the sloppy play needed to end.

That warning went unheeded, and similar results ensued in the opener in Kansas City. There were three silver linings from this game. 1) Jose Abreu homered, ending needless worries about his lack of power during spring training; 2) Johnson got his first big-league hit out of the way; and 3) it only counts as one loss and there's another game on Wednesday.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Carlos Rodon shows promise in dominant outing against Royals

There's a reason the White Sox made pitcher Carlos Rodon their first-round pick in the 2014 draft: He's got a 95 mph heater, and more importantly, a big-league ready slider.

Rodon put his nasty breaking ball on display Wednesday night in a spring training start against the Kansas City Royals, and the results were spectacular. He worked four scoreless innings in Chicago's 6-0 win, recording nine of his 12 outs via the strikeout. He walked none and gave up four hits, all of them singles.

I just finished watching the outing on my DVR, and by my unofficial count, eight of the nine strikeouts were with the slider. That pitch breaks quick down-and-in to right-handed batters and down-and-away to lefties. The Kansas City hitters had no chance. They were swinging right over the top of it.

I know what you're thinking: Spring training numbers don't count. You're right, but consider this: The defending AL champs from Kansas City had eight of their nine regulars in the lineup to face Rodon. Catcher Salvador Perez was the only notable absence.

Here is the list of Rodon strikeout victims from Wednesday: Alcides Escobar, Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Alex Rios, Erik Kratz, Escobar again, Lorenzo Cain, Hosmer again, Kendrys Morales.

All familiar names except for Kratz, who was catching in place of Perez. This was not a "B" lineup by any stretch.

Rodon still needs to go back to Triple-A to start the season and work on his changeup, which both Omar Infante and Morales got base hits against in this outing, but I came away impressed that Rodon was able to do that kind of work against established players.

Samardzija to start opener; Sale throws bullpen session

The worst-kept secret in Sox camp is no longer a secret. Jeff Samardzija will be the starting pitcher on Opening Day, manager Robin Ventura announced Wednesday.

A lot of ink got spilled on this issue, because Ventura previously told the press he knew who his starter would be, but declined to reveal that information. Nonetheless, anyone with a calendar who knows pitchers work every five days, and who knows how to count, could have figured out Samardzija was going to get the nod in the opener. He's been on schedule to start April 6 for more than two weeks. What should have been obvious to all is finally official.

And, really, does it matter that much who starts on Opening Day? It's mostly symbolic, and everyone will have long forgotten about it when mid-August rolls around. I think most observers are aware that Chris Sale is clearly the Sox's best pitcher. He's just not going to be available to make that start this year.

And speaking of Sale (broken foot), he threw a short bullpen session Wednesday and remains on track to make his season debut April 12 against the Minnesota Twins.

How important is Sale to the Sox? Consider this quote from Kansas City TV broadcaster Rex Hudler, which I heard while watching Wednesday's game:

"Anytime you have a series against the White Sox, and you don't see (Sale), that's a break."

That about sums it up.

Monday, December 15, 2014

White Sox sign Melky Cabrera to play left field

After the White Sox acquired pitcher Jeff Samardzija last week, we said that wouldn't be enough to make the South Siders a legitimate contender.

We said they needed to press forward and fix other holes, including the ongoing problem in left field. On Saturday night, general manager Rick Hahn addressed the outfield issue, agreeing to terms with Melky Cabrera on a three-year, $42 million contract.

Critics of this move will note Cabrera was busted for PED use while with the San Francisco Giants in 2012. I'm not too concerned about that because the switch-hitter has continued to produce since that incident, suggesting his success wasn't entirely the result of chemical enhancements.

Check out Cabrera's numbers over the past four years:

2011 with the Kansas City Royals: .305/.339/.470, 18 HRs, 87 RBIs
2012 with San Francisco: .346/.390/.516, 11 HRs, 60 RBIs
2013 with the Toronto Blue Jays: .279/.322/.360, 3 HRs, 30 RBIs
2014 with Toronto: .301/.351/.458, 16 HRs, 73 RBIs

Cabrera has hit .300 or better in three of the past four years, with the only exception being his injury-riddled 2013 season where he was limited to 88 games. If he's healthy, he's going to hit.

Here's the thing I like about Cabrera. He doesn't care if there's a left-handed pitcher or a right-handed pitcher on the mound. Here are his platoon splits over the past four seasons:

vs. LHP: 308/..350/.477
vs. RHP: .309/.352/.451

We can see there is more pop in his bat from the right side of the plate, but the batting average and on-base percentage are essentially the same from either side. This is a guy manager Robin Ventura can just pencil in every day in the No. 2 spot in the batting order, regardless of who the opposing pitcher is.

Defensively, Cabrera possesses one of the better throwing arms in the league, although his defense has regressed a bit the past couple years playing on the artificial surface in Toronto.

I think the Sox need to focus on defense when selecting a fourth outfielder, because neither Cabrera nor right fielder Avisail Garcia can play center field, if something should happen to Adam Eaton. Whoever the backup outfielder is must be able to handle center field adequately, which means Dayan Viciedo is going to be shown the door one way or another before next season begins.

We'll see if Hahn can get Viciedo out of town in exchange for the bullpen arm he still needs.