Reliever Joakim Soria has once again blown another lead for the Kansas City Royals, who are in a tight Wild Card race where every game counts. With losses in five of their last eight contests, Kansas City will look to regain their footing and reignite their march toward a third straight postseason berth on Friday when they visit the Chicago White Sox for the opener of a three-game series.
Kansas City Royals-Chicago White Sox Series Preview
The Royals sit four games behind the Baltimore Orioles for the second wild-card spot. They have won nine of 12 meetings with Chicago this season – including four of six at U.S. Cellular Field.
Kendrys Morales homered in the Royals’ 6-5 heartbreaking loss to the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday. Morales is absolutely on fire, batting .405 with 16 RBIs and 12 runs scored during his 10-game hitting streak. The 33-year-old struggled quite a bit in the first three series against the White Sox, going 3-for-22 with 10 strikeouts before collecting three hits in two games against the American League Central rival last month.
Jose Abreu recorded his fourth three-hit performance on Wednesday to help Chicago win its fourth game in six outings with a 7-4 victory versus the Detroit Tigers. The 29-year-old has hit safely in 30 of his last 34 games, but is just 3-for-13 in his career against Friday starter Yordano Ventura.
The pitching matchup for Friday night’s game will showcase Ventura (10-9, 4.22 ERA) vs. White Sox LH Carlos Rodon (6-8, 3.90 ERA). Ventura overcame six walks in as many innings during Saturday’s 5-2 victory over Detroit, improving him to 4-0 in his last seven starts. The 25-year-old has allowed 11 earned runs in that stretch and is coming off a wonderful performance in his last bout with Chicago. Ventura allowed only one run and struck out 10 over seven innings in a 3-1 triumph over the White Sox on June 12.
Rodon won his third consecutive start and improved to 4-0 with a 1.91 ERA in his last six on Friday after working seven innings in an 11-4 victory at Minnesota. The 23-year-old struck out five in that contest and has fanned 31 over 37 2/3 since his last loss on July 31. Rodon, who will be making his career-high 24th start on Friday, is 1-1 with a 2.55 ERA and 14 strikeouts in three meetings with Kansas City this season.
Saturday’s pitching duel will be comprised of Edinson Volquez (10-10, 5.02 ERA) and former Royal James Shields (5-17, 6.07 ERA). Volquez struggled in his last two outings, losing both games and allowing eight total earned runs in just nine innings pitched. Volquez has failed to post a quality start in any of his last eight outings. After posting two of the three best seasons of his career the last two years, he appears to have reverted back to the form he typically showed during most of his first seven years in the league.
Shields has somehow been even worse than Volquez in that stretch. He’s lost in his last four outings, and only managed to get through two full innings against the Twins on September 3rd. He gave up five total runs, three of which were homers. Shields was believed to be in danger of missing the rest of 2016 as a result of the back injury, but an MRI has cleared the right-hander to return to the rotation.
Rounding out Sundays’ slot will be Ian Kennedy (10-9, 3.76 ERA) vs. Chris Sale (15-7, 3.07 ERA). After enjoying close to a month of pitching less than two total runs in each of those five outings, he has finally come back to earth. He gave up four runs in each of last two performances. Kennedy went 5.1 innings Monday, and despite allowing 11 base-runners and two home runs, he managed to prevent the big inning and gave his offense a chance to win the game; which they did.
Although the White Sox have lost in the last three starts for Sale, he has been nothing short of great on the mound. On the 26th of August, he pitched all nine innings against the Seattle Mariners, striking out 14 batters and giving up three runs. Sale then pitched 8 innings in his next two starts, allowing only two runs in each. Sale has now thrown four consecutive quality starts with an amazing 36:7 K/BB ratio, 1.91 ERA and 0.88 WHIP over 33 innings. Look for him to continue to bring the heat until the very end.