One game into the final series of the first half, the Royals indeed seem like a team designed to comfort the White Sox. The Sox did not play well tonight. Rough defense put the first two runs on James Shields’ tab, and then erratic control forced the White Sox to use five relievers over seven outs.
And yet they still won by three.
The Royals just don’t have much in the way of pitching. Brad Keller had a problem setting up good counts, and the Royals bullpen gave up three homers. Jose Abreu hit one of them, which he sorely needed. Omar Narvaez hit another one, which the Sox sorely needed after nearly blowing a 7-2 lead.
It certainly should’ve been easier. Through six innings, Shields had only give up two hits and two runs, both of which were unearned. Yoan Moncada once again clanked a double-play ball to set up the first run, and Omar Narvaez let a slow curve skip through his legs for the second one.
That surge cut the Chicago lead to 3-2, but the Sox greeted Keller with four singles from the first five batters to restore the three-run cushion, including the first Sox hit and RBI from Ryan LaMarre.
The Sox then stretched that lead to 7-2 in the sixth. Abreu jumped on the first pitch of the inning and hit a 451-foot blast to left center, which ended Heath Fillmyer’s night. In came sidewinding Tim Hill, who gave up a solo shot to Leury Garcia two batters in.
But it almost all fell apart in the late innings. Shields recorded the first two outs of the seventh, but couldn’t get the third. Adalberto Mondesi singled, and so did Whit Merrifield. Jorge Bonifacio doubled both of them home to chase Shields from the game. Luis Avilan replaced him and plunked Mike Moustakas, which prompted Rick Renteria to use Juan Minaya to get out Sal Perez to end the inning.
Xavier Cedeno replaced Minaya to start the eighth and had maybe his worst outing with the White Sox. He gave up a single and a walk, both of which moved up 90 feet on a groundout to first. He then got a grounder to third, but Yolmer Sanchez mishandled it for an error, and a run scored to make it 7-5. Cedeno then got Mondesi to fly out.
Up came Merrifield, and with a tough right-handed batter at the plate, Jeanmar Gomez came in to make his White Sox debut. He got ahead on Merrifield 1-2, but with everything away. On the fifth such pitch of the battle, Merrifield poked a single through the right side to make it a one-run game. Bonifacio followed by hitting a fly to deep center, which Charlie Tilson flagged down on the warning track with a tiny hop.
But the Sox had one more answer in them. Daniel Palka smashed a grounder off the glove of Hunter Dozier and into right field for a double, and Narvaez cashed him in by hoisting a two-run homer into the visitors’ bullpen.
Joakim Soria made easy work of the ninth for the save.
The Royals used one fewer reliever despite getting only 2⅔ innings out of Keller (although they pitched one fewer inning). Keller gave up three runs in the first inning — one on a Palka single, the other two on a Garcia double — and ended up issuing four walks. The Sox definitely won the strike zone battle tonight. Their hitters drew six walks to four strikeouts, while their pitchers walked just three to nine K’s.
*Moncada drew the first three-walk game of his career.
*LaMarre went 2-for-4 with an RBI in his White Sox debut, which was in left field.
*Tilson was the only White Sox starter without a hit, going 0-for-3 with a walk.
*Narvaez let two slow curves get to the backstop, but his third homer — which set single-season personal bests for homers and extra-base hits — made up for it.
Record: 32-61 | Box score
Shields pulled Moncada aside, arm over his shoulder. “Don’t worry about it kid. We’re all in this together.”
Way to lead, James.
This is why I’m not bothered if they don’t trade Shields. Not sure the lottery ticket he’d return is worth his leadership- especially with Kopech arriving eventually.
Weird how the only position the Sox excel at right now is catcher with their tandem of Nar & Smith–at least hitting-wise. Carried over from last year. Now they have to learn to actually catch the ball!