The White Sox take their road show and modest two game winning streak into Kansas City to take on the first place Royals in a weekend series at Kauffman Stadium. The series win in Texas for the Sox was the first since the opening week of the season and was also the first time Texas lost a series this year.
The Royals on the other hand just swept a weather abbreviated two game series with the Tampa Bay Rays. Last night’s game was snowed out…in Kansas City…in May. So let’s hope for better weather over the weekend.
The White Sox rotation got shuffled around to accommodate the injuries to Gavin Floyd and Jake Peavy so Dylan Axelrod (0-1, 3.95 ERA) will toe the slab Friday night where he will be opposed by Jeremy Guthrie (3-0, 3.06 ERA).
Guthrie has replaced Bruce Chen as the “why can’t we beat this guy” starter for the Royals. He has already racked up a win against the Sox this year, beating them back on April 4th helping the Royals avoid the sweep in the opening series. In that performance Guthrie went 6 innings allowing 1 run on 5 hits, striking out 9 while issuing just one walk.
This carried over his trend of stymieing the White Sox offense he started last year. In his last 35.2 innings against the Sox, Guthrie has allowed just 2 earned runs on 26 hits, racking up 28 strikeouts against just 3 walks. That works out to an ERA of 0.51 over 5 starts.
Still there are some Sox players with good career numbers against Guthrie including Alex Rios (.300, 2 HRs) and Alejandro De Aza (.385). Paul Konerko has 3 homers against Guthrie but Adam Dunn is a woeful 2-for-19 with 10 strikeouts.
The Sox have gotten all they could ask for out of Dylan Axelrod. As the fifth starter and presumed place holder for John Danks all Axe has done is throw 3 straight quality starts and battle against opposing hitters. Unfortunately for Axe, the offense has not helped him out very much and he is yet to get a win this year despite giving up 3 runs or less in 4 of his 5 starts.
Axelrod has made just one career appearance against the Royals and it came last season in a relief role. He actually got the win and finished the game throwing 2 scoreless innings without yielding a hit. George Kottaras (1-for-2, double) is the only Royals hitter with more than one at bat against Axe and no one else on the roster has a hit.
The series continues Saturday night with Jose Quintana (2-0, 3.58 ERA) taking on Wade Davis (2-2, 5.55 ERA).
The Sox did not see Davis in the opening series of the year so this will be their first look at him in a Royals uniform. Davis came over in the offseason along with James Shields in the big trade with Tampa Bay. It’s been a bit of an up and down road for Davis who has had a couple great starts mixed in between some clunkers.
His worst outing was his last one where he allowed 8 runs on 12 hits, including two home runs, to the Indians in just 4.2 innings. The start before that Davis allowed 7 runs (only 3 earned) against the Tigers, so the Sox might be catching him at the right time. The Sox have struggled against Davis in the past. He is 3-1 with a 1.84 ERA in 7 games (4 starts) and has held the Sox to a .190 batting average.
Paul Konerko (.308, 2 doubles), Alexei Ramirez (.333, HR) and Dewayne Wise (.300, HR) have had some success against Davis while Alex Rios (0-for-13, 2 Ks) is still looking for his first hit against the veteran right-hander.
Davis will be opposed by Quintana, who is coming off his worst start since his first outing of the year. He allowed 4 runs on 8 hits in 5 innings to the Rangers, including a pair of home runs.
It was a tough, but not terrible outing considering the firepower the Rangers lineup possesses. Despite the rough outing against Texas, opponents are still hitting just .207 against Jose in his last four starts. This will be Quintana’s first start against the Royals in 2013 after making three starts against them last season.
In those starts Q was 0-1 with a 4.26 ERA. He allowed 9 runs on 22 hits in 19 innings and struck out 14 but also walked nine. The Royals hit .293 overall against Quintana last season and a whopping .347 at Kauffman Stadium. Jeff Francoeur (.833, HR), Mike Moustakas (.444, 2 HRs) and Alcides Escobar (.375, HR) have had their way with Quintana while Alex Gordon (.182, 3 Ks), Billy Butler (.167, 4 Ks) and Eric Hosmer (.111, 2 Ks) have been held in check.
The finale of the series will take place Sunday afternoon and the Sox are hoping that Jake Peavy (3-1, 3.38 ERA) will be able to take the mound against James Shields (2-2, 3.00 ERA).
The Sox saw Shields on Opening Day at US Cellular Field and handed him a loss as he was out dueled by Chris Sale. Shields went 6 innings allowing just 1 run on 8 hits with 6 strikeouts and no walks, the lone blemish in the game was a solo home run by Tyler Flowers (pictured below, H/T ESPN.com).
It was the Sox fourth career win against “Big Game James” in 12 starts. Overall Shields is now 3-4 against the South Siders with a 4.52 ERA and the Sox have hit .286 with 14 home runs against him. Alex Rios (.311, HR), Alexei Ramirez (.429, 2 HRs) and Dewayne Wise (.308, 2 HRs) have had their way with Shields while Paul Konerko (.161, 9 Ks) and Adam Dunn (.077, 6 Ks) have not.
The Sox are hopeful that Peavy will have recovered from the back spasms that forced him to be scratched from his scheduled start on Thursday. Thankfully for the Sox, Hector Santiago filled in splendidly and got the win. Peavy faced the Royals in the second game of the season and picked up the win going 6 innings allowing 2 runs (1 ER) on 4 hits with 6 strikeouts and no walks.
Peavy has been very good so far this year with quality starts in 4 of his 5 outing. He has allowed just a single run in 3 of his 4 quality starts. Career against the Royals Peavy has had his struggles, posting a 5-7 record with a 4.60 ERA in 13 starts. The Royals have hit .275 against the Jake-miester with Billy Butler (.400, 3 HRs) and Alcides Escobar (.368, 2 HRs) leading the way.
Peavy has managed to keep Hosmer (.167) and Moustakas (.211) in check but overall the current Royals batters are hitting .303 with 6 home runs and 8 doubles against him.
Keys to the Series
Pitching Leads the Way: The Sox starting pitching has been good all season, and they started off the year by handling the Royals hitters in the opening series. Sox pitching allowed just 5 runs (3 ER) on 17 hits with 23 strikeouts in the three game set. They also held Royals hitters to a .177 batting average and an even more impressive .219 slugging percentage.
The Sox will need to continue this type of performance in Kansas City, where the Sox struggled last year, winning just 3 of the 9 games played at Kauffman Stadium. The Sox have had 16 quality starts from the rotation this year or roughly 60% of their starts. As long as the starting pitching performs like this, the Sox can be competitive until the bats come around.
Royal Pains: As mentioned above the White Sox won just three of their nine games at Kauffman Stadium last year and only won 6 of the 18 games against the Royals overall. It was a major reason, if not the main reason, the White Sox lost the division to Detroit.
We said coming into this year that the Sox had to be better against the division, especially against KC and Detroit, and they would get their chance to prove themselves right off the bat with Kansas City. The Sox took two out of three in the opening series behind some solid starting pitching and some home runs, pretty much the recipe for success with this team.
The Sox now have the opportunity to carry that over and play a good road series in a place that they struggled last season. The Royals are playing good baseball and are tied with the Tigers atop the division at 15-10. It won’t be easy, but another series win here for the Sox could really build some momentum.
My “why not the Sox” statement proved true in Texas as the White Sox became the first time to hand the Rangers a series loss this year.
Now they move onto Kansas City where the Royals are 8-4 so far. This will not be an easy series as nothing against KC comes easy. However I think that the Sox pitching should be able to handle themselves well against the Royals and THIS IS THE TIME when the Sox finally break out against Guthrie. (It has to happen right? He’s not that good!) The Pale Hose will keep the good mojo going and win their second straight series because they are leading the league in TWTW right now!