Royals 5, White Sox 4: At least they won a series

Loose defense a bigger issue than questionable bullpen handling in loss

In game marked by questioanble bullpen management, the best move was the one that didn’t work.

Bruce Rondon came in to pitch the eighth for the Sox, an inning after Rick Renteria stuck with Chris Volstad to navigate the heart of the Kansas City order in the seventh. Rondon got ahead of Alcides Escobar 0-2 to start, but one quick pitch resulted in a slider out of the zone, and another quick pitch drilled Escobar right on the hand to put the winning run on base.

A fastball that glanced off Omar Narvaez’s mitt while Drew Butera had squared around to bunt gave Escobar another 90 feet, and lessened the blow of Butera popping up a subsequent bunt attempt. However it happened, the Royals had their original intention of a runner in scoring position for the top of the order, and Whit Merrifield capitalized with a single up the middle.

The Royals countered with Blaine Boyer and his 16.88 ERA to close it out. He somehow made pretty easy work of it, getting a couple of groundouts to start. Matt Davidson kept the inning alive with an infield single chopped off home plate, but Trayce Thompson’s checked-swing liner went right to Lucas Duda for the third out.

Win probability had seriously tilted in the Royals’ favor in the seventh thanks to Renteria’s more questionable pitching choice. Volstad allowed three straight singles to the 2-3-4 part of the KC lineup, but exited a batter later after a 6-2 bounceout by Cuthbert. In came Luis Avilan to try getting the other two, and he followed Volstad’s act by getting Jon Jay to hit a dribbler in front of home plate for another force at home.

The situation apparently under control, Avilan ratcheted up the dread by falling behind Alex Gordon 3-0 with three pitches in the first. Gordon watched a fastball down the middle, then a slider for another strike. He then stayed offspeed for a couple more foul balls, and when Avilan threw one more below the zone, Gordon couldn’t switch off swing mode. He swung over the pitch fro strike three, and Avilan pumped his fist in celebration.

The story of this game could be some Ricky’s Boys Not Quitting, as they managed to scramble back from a 4-2 deficit by producing runs from unfavorable situations.

In the sixth, Tim Anderson grounded into a first-pitch double play after Brian Flynn walked the first two batters he faced. Leury Garcia then salvaged the situation by poking a triple just out of the reach of Jay in center.

An inning later, the Sox had two on and nobody out when Jose Abreu took two HBPs in one (it clipped his elbow and redirected into his groin). He took a second to gather himself at home plate, then gained revenge over Flynn by stealing second and scoring on Nicky Delmonico’s double to right.

The reason the White Sox trailed 4-2 is because more subpar outfield defense prevented Renteria’s first pitching change from working as planned.

Hector Santiago had struck out Jorge Soler his first two times up, but with Santiago approaching 90 pitches in his first start and having just surrendered a sharp two-out single, Renteria went to the pen.

In came Chris Volstad, who fared well enough against his first batter by getting a weak fly to right. Daniel Palka broke straight toward the gap before breaking in, requiring him to make a sliding attempt, and the ball went in and out of his glove. The wind, a strong one from right to left, was probably a factor, but it’s probably more Palka not beinga  strong defender. That kept the inning alive, and Cheslor Cuthbert homered on the first pitch he saw, putting a better swing on a decent down-and-in fastball.

Cuthbert had homered an inning earlier off Santiago, cutting a 2-0 White Sox lead in half. Palka added to his RBI total with a double off the right-field wall, which might’ve been a homer if it weren’t for the wind, but would’ve been caught if Soler negotiated it successfully.

At least the White Sox were able to snap their seven-series losing streak by picking up three out of five. Perhaps the 11 games in 10 days had a hand in the bullpen management. There’s an off day on Monday, the Sox might be on track for a more normal May.

Bullet points:

*Palka kept hit at-bat alive against Ian Kennedy by swinging on a 3-0 pitch, when it looked like Kennedy might be working around him to get to Anderson. He took a 3-1 fastball in off the plate for a strike two, and then capitalized on the matchup advantage with the double.

*Abreu looked irked earlier in the game when he dodged two inside pitches, then chased a slider off the corner, spiking his bat with unusual velocity.

Record: 8-18 | Box score

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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Steinscribe

Didn’t get to watch until the 4th and Abreu was shown in the dugout looking pissed. Anyone know the story?

John SF

that AB where he spiked the bat was weird. He had looked up at the pitcher and taken a long long pause outside the box. Too long, but the ump didn’t do anything. I think Salvy said something to him that was innapropriate.

Pito realllllly wanted a hit right then, preferably a HR or a linedrive at the pitcher’s head. And was pissed at himself that he didn’t make it happen.

John SF

It scares me that, as Jim put in his column for the Athletic today, this looked like normal baseball.

I mean, we looked normal — even good! — against KC these 5 games. Reasons to hope, reasons to dream, reasons to be sad, reasons to back-seat coach the bullpen and bunt decisions. You know, like baseball stuff!

But this is KC. They’re probably the 29th or 28th worst team in baseball right now. And we’re precariously close to being the 27th.

How’s this for a rules change Mr. Manfried… at the end of May the divisions all switch and we redo the schedule?

Put the Reds, Rays, Royals, Tigers, Marlins, and White Sox together in a special walled-off division for the rest of the year. Whoever loses the most games out of the group is demoted to AAA for all of 2019, leaving room to introduce an expansion team.