The Royals face off against the White Sox for the last time in Chicago, this season, today. They're also finishing their second to last road trip. The road has not been kind to the Royals this season where they have gone 31-43. In a season of, "If they had just done this one tiny thing differently, they'd be going to the playoffs!" the road record is among those things. If the Royals had even played .500 on the road their amazing home record would leave them in control of a wild card spot and only three games back in the division. Alas, that's for an alternate universe to celebrate.
The Royals, you may have heard, need every win they can get just to stay within mathematical possibility of reaching this year's post-season. Today they will send Ian Kennedy to the mound to lead them to their newest victory. Ian has been at least as streaky as the rest of his team, so far this year. He started off the year with a series of very good starts interspersed with a couple poor ones, then he had a rather lengthy streak of the opposite. He had a good streak going again from the end of July until he ran into Boston in his second to last start in August. Now he's on a four-game streak of Game Scores getting worse every start. If he extends that streak today he will need a Game Score v2 of less than 32. Hopefully he won't.
The White Sox will send their ace to the mound as they attempt to play spoiler. Much ado was made earlier this season about Chris Sale's attempt to change his pitching style in order to induce more contact and reduce the number of pitches he has to throw. The results so far have his ERA about a third of a run smaller than last year and have him on pace to strike out many fewer hitters but also to pitch a few more innings. He's on pace for a career worst FIP and xFIP, each more than a run higher than any numbers he has put up since 2013. The experiment has been a mixed success, therefore. One team it hasn't been an unmitigated success against is the Royals. In three games this year he is averaging 6 2/3 innings and hasn't lost a game, but also has a 4.50 ERA.
#Royals lineup pic.twitter.com/OyopMCKHYO— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) September 11, 2016
9/11 @whitesox lineup vs KC— MLB Lineups (@mlblineups) September 11, 2016
As has been true ever since the Royals' nine-game winning streak got them back in the wild card discussion, they need every win they can get. Today is no exception.