Baseball

 

Game 1 Box: Sox 2, Royals 1

Game 2 Box: Sox 4, Royals 3

Game 3 Box: Sox 8, Royals 7

 

 

The Sox managed to sweep a moribund KC team this week with some excellent Giolito pitching, solid offense in games 2 and 3, and a little help from Mother Nature in game one.  What does it all mean?  In the grand scheme of this season, not a whole hell of a lot.  The Royals are intentionally bad, with not much in their future that’s going to change the situation (unless watching Billy Hamilton bat .185 is your thing), and the Sox are 3 starters away from having an average MLB rotation.  That being said, the series was pretty fun, with some added spiciness tonight to add to an already simmering Hate Stew for these two teams.

 

TO THE BULLETS

 

-RIGHT TO THE SPICE!  With Tim Anderson missing the first two games because of a sore wrist, it looked like we might not get a continuation of the shenanigans that occurred the last time these two teams met.  That ended up not being the case, as Tim was in the lineup tonight and the first pitch from Glenn Sparkman sailed right over Timmy’s eyebrows and off the visor of his batting helmet.  Granted this was probably not an intentional pitch (it was a changeup that Sparkman lost the grip on and not a 4 seamer), but with the officiating crew well aware of the dumb shit that went down a few weeks ago, home plate ump Mark Carlson wasted no time sending the moon faced Sparkman to the showers.  This prompted Ned Yost to stop digging in the dugout trash long enough to come out and vomit some old timey coachins on home plate, but Carlson was not to be swayed.  Much to Anderson’s credit he kept his cool and walked down to first, later to get the last laugh in the bottom of the 8th, when he laced a double off a good Ian Kennedy slider to put the Sox ahead for good.

 

-Timmy shouldn’t have had to be so heroic however, but the continued mismanagement of the pitching staff by Renteria lead to the Sox blowing a 7-1 lead.  Going into the 6th, it was pretty clear that Rey Lopez was running out of gas.  That combined with the dreaded 3rd time through the order lead to him being charged with 4 runs in the inning.  Lopez ended up going 5.2 and throwing 118 pitches, 32 of which came in the 6th when it was clear he didn’t have it anymore.  Jace Fry and Marshall came in and performed admirably, but then it was KHT (Kelvin Herrera Time) and all of a sudden the game was tied.  It wouldn’t shock me to see Herrera on the IL here shortly, as he hasn’t been right since he tweaked his back awhile ago.

 

-Alex Colome had himself a heck of a series, getting the win in the continuation of game one yesterday, then getting the save later that night.  Tonight he was called on again to close out the win as well, pitching a solid 9th for his 11th save of the year.  With the emergence of James McCannonballs as a legit (at least for now) backstop, the trade that brought Colome here can be viewed as one of Hahn’s better moves in the past few offseasons.

 

-Lucas Giolito is now officially A THING.  It looked like his start against the Astros might have been a mirage if you watched the 1st inning in game two.  He started out pretty wild, walking one and plunking one, then giving up a bomb to Alex “Soul Stone” Gordon.  After that shot, Gio pulled his shit together and mowed the Royals down for the next 7 innings, never throwing more than 16 pitches in an inning.  His changeup is a thing of beauty, and his fastball has some pretty hilarious movement on it.  Top that off with 2 more offspeed pitches and he looks like a legitimate “top of the rotation” kinda guy.  To think this time last year I watched him give up 8 runs in 1.2 innings to a god awful Orioles team.  It’s a very welcome change.

 

-Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada are hitting for power again!  They’re both still striking out too much, but I have a feeling once the weather settles into a warm pattern those folks sitting in the first 10 rows of the OF need to pay attention.  Moncada’s dinger tonight was also opposite field, which is awesome to see him taking what the pitcher is giving him.

 

-Eloy is still seeing nothing but a steady diet of sliders and curveballs.  When he gets his eyes timed with his wrists he’s gonna be right back to murdering the ball, mark my words.

 

-Leury Garcia started out the year with a brutal stretch, but over the past few weeks has turned things around completely.  He’s a Marwin Gonzalez-type player, with value all over the diamond and can also provide a little offense.  His robbery of Jorge Soler tonight was a well-timed thing of beauty, resulting in Soler tipping his cap to the diminutive center fielder.  I still don’t care for him leading off, but you can do a lot worse than him right now.

 

-Yonder Alonso is now batting .172, which is exactly what you want out of your fucking cleanup hitter.  /wanking motion.

 

-Next up is a 4 game series with the Tribe, with 3 of those starts featuring some form of Banuelos, Covey or Nova.  I’m sure Jose Ramierez will be hitting .340 by Monday.

 

 

 

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Royals 18-34   Whites Sox 23-29

GAMETIMES: Monday 1:10, Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:10

TV: NBCSN Monday and Tuesday, WGN Wednesday

ARGUING ABOUT BBQ: Royals Review

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Homer Bailey vs. Ivan Nova

Brad Keller vs. Lucas Giolito

TBD vs. Reynaldo Lopez

PROBABLE ROYALS LINEUP

Nicky Lopez – 2B

Whit Merrifield – RF

Adalberto Mondesi – SS

Alex Gordon – LF

Hunter Dozier – 3B

Jorge Soler – DH

Ryan O’Hearn – 1B

Martin Maldonado – C

Billy Hamilton – CF

PROBABLE WHITE SOX LINEUP

Yoan Moncada – 3B

Eloy Jimenez – LF

Jose Abreu – 1B

Yonder Alonson – DH

James McCann – C

Charlie Tilson – RF

Jose Rondon – SS

Yolmer Sanchez – 2B

Ryan Cordell – CF

 

After spending the week on the road playing the cream of the crop the AL has to offer, and having the Twins get in up to the elbow, the Sox return home to go to the other side of the spectrum with a three-gamer against the Kansas City Royals, who have as many losses as the Marlins. And when you have anything that’s the same number as the Marlins, that’s a place you don’t want to be. But hey, they’re not the Orioles.

How did the Royals get here? Well, it’s not an offense as bas as you’d think one for a wooden spooner would be. They rank 9th or 10th in most offensive categories as a team, and through Dozier, Gordon, Soler, Merrifield, and Mondesi they can put up some runs on the odd night here and there. Hamilton and Maldonado are automatic outs though, when any of the Sox pitchers need a break. Soler and Mondesi are strikeout-prone, but the other three in the five mentioned are very patient and can make for a headache.

Scouring further down, the Royals rotation has actually bee slightly better than the Sox’s, in terms of ERA and FIP. Their problem is they walk more hitters than anyone other than the Rangers. The only bright spot has been Danny Duffy, whom the Sox will miss this go-around. Homer Bailey can’t get it over the plate and when he does it’s had a nasty habit of getting sent to far away places. Keller has had even bigger walk-problems, so if the Sox can be patient there’s gold in them thar hills.

Late in games, you’d want to avoid the triumvirate of Jason Diekman, Ian Kennedy, and Scott Barlow, who have very high K numbers and have generally been a pain in the ass. Everyone else has been gasoline, and with the Royals have a shrug emoji listed for Wednesday, the Sox might get to that gasoline.

For the Sox, Moncada slots up to the leadoff spot and Eloy to the 2nd spot, where you’d hope he’ll make his home for the next decade. Garcia and Anderson are nursing minor knocks but could show up at some point in the series, though not this afternoon. Either way for the Sox, it’ll be something of a relief to just no have to deal with a hell’s gauntlet of a lineup anymore.

 

Baseball

Alex Gordon was dead.

That was clear. After the 2015 Royals World Series win, Gordon must’ve figured there wasn’t anything left to do, because he fell off a cliff, crashed into jagged rocks, and watched his limbs split off. Some of this was due to injury, as Gordon’s body began betraying him in that ’15 season. He only played 104 games that year, which turned him into a 2-WAR player when he had been consistently a four or five. It also affected his superb defense.

But after that? Hooo boy. The past three seasons the best average Gordon had was .245. His highest OBP was .324. His highest wOBA was .305. He didn’t have a 2-WAR season, managing 1.7 last year, and that was the highest.

Gordon was never a great power hitter, only cracking 20 homers twice in his career and never slugging higher than .455. But he used to be a doubles-machine, including putting up 51 one season. The past three seasons his totals for two-baggers was 16, 20, 24. So what happened?

It seemed like Gordon got to that magical point a lot of players do these days at age 32, when dealing with the hyped up velocity of the modern game became too much. Gordon saw a huge spike in his whiff-percentage on off-speed and breaking pitches, which kind of clues you into that he was starting to cheat a bit on fastballs. When you’re spinning like a top on curveballs, you know this could be the problem. And Gordon was doing less and less with fastballs too, which doesn’t leave you a lot of places to go.

So what’s turned around this year? Well, Gordon is dealing with the fastball again, hitting .295 against them so far after not being above .240 the past three seasons. Gordon also isn’t getting bamboozled by changes and curves, hitting .389 and .333 against them, respectively. The past three seasons those numbers were…well, unsightly.

Is there a change in approach? There seems to be only a tweak or two. Gordon is swinging at less pitches out of the zone, but he’s making contact on significantly more pitches out of the zone. High and a way seems to be the order of the day:

One wonders if Gordon’s resurgence might bring his time in Kansas City to an end. Gordon is 35, and clearly won’t be around the next time the Royals mean anything to anyone. He has a mutual option next year for $23M, but must a $4M buyout. Any contender needing another bat would probably think that’s not much of an investment. Of course, Gordon can only play left, though an AL team could slot him at DH too.

Of course, you’re also talking about one of the most popular Royals ever, someone whose name will live forever there thanks to those ’14 and ’15 teams (could you have scored in the 9th in Game 7, though?). You don’t just flog those unless you have to, especially as Gordon probably doesn’t fetch that much at 35 with still limited power. These are the decisions that rebuilding teams have to make. At least Gordon isn’t dead like he used to be.

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Royals 5-10   White Sox 5-9

GAMETIMES: Monday and Tuesday at 7:10, Wednesday 1:10

TV: NBCSN Monday and Wednesday, WGN Tuesday

WAITING FOR MAHOMES: Royals Review

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Heath Fillmyer vs. Ervin Santana

Jorge Lopez vs. Reynaldo Lopez

Brad Keller vs. Lucas Giolito

PROBABLE ROYALS LINEUP

Whit Merrifield – RF

Adalberto Mondesi – SS

Alex Gordon – LF

Jorge Soler – RF

Ryan O’Hearn – 1B

Hunter Dozier – 3B

Chris Owings – 2B

Martin Maldanado – C

Billy Hamilton – CF

 

PROBABLY SOX LINEUP

Leury Garcia – CF

Yoan Moncada – 3B

Jose Abreu – DH

Yonder Alonso – 1B

Eloy Jimenez – LF

Tim Anderson – SS

Welington Castillo – C

Daniel Palka – RF

Yolmer Sanchez – 2B

 

After getting Eloy Jimenez on the board, and taking two of three from the vaunted but decrepit (at the moment) Yankees, the White Sox have a brief pitstop at home to face the drain-scraping Royals before heading back out onto the road. Not that the Sox are all that concerned with “momentum” or getting on a roll this year, but this would seem an excellent chance to string a couple series victories together after having their brains scooped out by the Rays last week.

Of course, that task gets a little trickier when it starts with Ervin Santana and his magical gasoline-ball. Santana was clubbed hard by the Rays last out, giving up seven runs in less than four innings of work. Santana was his own worst enemy with walks last out, which were a major problem for him in a brief cameo in Minnesota last year. This is what happens when you have just a place-holder in your rotation, as until some kid comes up to claim that spot you’re just going to have to white-knuckle through a lot of his turns.

Reynaldo Lopez hasn’t been much better, as he’ll be seeking his first quality start of the season in a Lopez Battle on Tuesday. Lopez also has been allergic to the strikezone, walking four in each of his starts. And in a continuing theme, Lucas Giolito will also try to spasm the right arm of an ump again, as after a promising season-opening start in KC he’s put up eight walks in two starts since. Perhaps the sky blue of the Royals will rekindle something in him.

The problem for the Sox is that the Royals aren’t the soft-landing, at least for pitchers, that you would have thought. Six regulars are putting up 100+ wRC+ at the moment, led by Alex Gordon who I could have sworn misplaced his intestines two years ago and would fold in on himself at the sight of any half-decent fastball. He’s cut out a huge chuck of Ks and is hitting the ball harder than he has at any point in his career. The difference appears to be a great improvement in plate discipline, as he’s cut down on the amount of swings at pitches out of the zone while upping the swings and contact in it, and well a .640 SLG is the result.

He’s not alone as Merrifield and Mondesi are thwacking the ball everywhere, though with far less discipline. My former special boy Jorge Soler has cracked four homers, including a couple that should have probably counted double. Looks like we’re in the midst of a the few weeks per season when Soler is healthy and paying attention. Even Hunter Dozier is slugging near .500.

But that doesn’t mean the pitching staff can’t give away whatever the offense takes. Because they can and do. They’ve gotten decent work out of Brad Keller, who’s been able to dance his way around walking nearly five guys for every nine innings. That won’t last though. Fillmyer has only made one start but it wasn’t particularly pretty, as the unholy force that the Mariners are apparently tagged him for five runs in just three innings. Jorge Lopez has also benefitted from extreme luck on contact, and again, appears poised to go hurling over a cliff like Super Dave Osborne at any moment.

If the starters can get it to Jason Diekmann or Ian Kennedy, Royals fans can generally emerge from their bunker. When they can’t it’s time to stock up on canned food and bottled water. They’ve already tried 10 other goofuses, and it’s not going well. So you’re never out of it against the Royals.

Royals and then Tigers and Orioles. Only for the diehards, but also a fertile ground to harvest some wins.