The Royals have jumped out to a hot start, angering half the league apparently in doing so. As Scott McKinney points out, the Royals are in embarking on a seventeen-game stretch against the other top teams in the Central Division, including division co-leaders, the Detroit Tigers. Getting off to a good start on this seven-game road trip in Chicago could set up an early big series against Detroit at the end of the month.
The Royals swept the White Sox at Kauffman to begin the year, but since then the White Sox have gone 6-5, all against Central Division foes. They have been outscored overall 61-50, but remember they were blown out 10-1 by the Royals on opening day which may skew those numbers a bit. I just wanted an excuse to remind you the Royals blew out the White Sox on opening day. That was awesome.
Despite their offensive upgrades over the winter, the White Sox have struggled to score runs, and are ninth in the league in that category. Designated hitter Adam LaRoche has posted a respectable .798 OPS but has walked or struck out in exactly half of his plate appearances. Free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera has not hit for any kind of power, with just one extra base hit in 14 games. Leadoff man Adam Eaton has gotten off to a terrible start, hitting just .196/.250/.250. Slugger Jose Abreu continues to hit though, and is second in the league in home runs with five, third in total bases, and ninth in OPS at 1.000.
Note: 2014 statistics
*-numbers in AA/AAA
The Royals will get a steady diet of left-handers this weekend as White Sox ace Chris Sale is back from his foot injury that sidelined him the first week of the season. Sale has already won his first two starts with 14 strikeouts in 12 innings of work. The rest of the White Sox pitching staff has struggled with a 4.41 ERA overall and the fifth fewest strikeouts in the league. Lefty Jose Quintana, one of the best pitchers in the league the last few years, has been hit hard this year, with opponents hitting .333/.389/.576 against him. Hector Noesi is striking out over a hitter per inning, but his 6.1 walks per nine innings is the fourth-highest in the league.
Note: 2014 statistics
The Sox pen has performed better than expected with a 3.40 ERA, sixth in the league, with the fifth most strikeouts per nine innings. Closer David Robertson has been as advertised, allowing just one hit and on walk in five innings, striking out 10 of the 17 hitters he has faced. Right-hander Jake Petricka, who served admirably as the closer last year, returns from the disabled list after a 2.96 ERA last season. 2014 first-round pick Carlos Rodon joins the White Sox bullpen after a short stint in the minors to begin the year. The right-hander gave up three hits, three walks, and two runs in 2 1/3 innings in his Major League debut.