Eric Skoglund’s night did not begin well. He left a pitch up in the middle of the plate and allowed a solo shot to Tim Anderson to start the game. You could almost hear the collective thoughts of Royals fans across the world, “Here we go again!” But he did what you would hope a young, learning pitcher would do. He took a breath, recovered his cool, and calmly struck out the next two batters. He even kept Matt Davidson in the park!
The Royals’ attempt to come back in the bottom of the inning was interrupted by a spat between Salvador Perez, who stood at second following a dropped line drive in left and Lucas Duda’s four-pitch walk, and Anderson. Anderson apparently said or did something to upset Salvy during his trot after the home run in the top half of the inning. Sal said something when Anderson got back to the plate but it wasn’t sufficient and they had a further discussion which caused an emptying of the benches and bullpen. No punches were thrown and Sal and Tim were eventually forced to shake hands before play resumed.
Whatever the beef between Perez and Anderson, it left Anderson a bit shook up, perhaps, because he fumbled Abraham Almonte’s groundball and allowed Mike Moustakas - who had singled with one out - to score easily from third and continued the inning. White Sox starter Dylan Covey could have been out of the inning with no runs scored and only 25 pitches thrown. Instead, he had to face Alex Gordon. Gordon lengthened the at-bat out to a full count before he lined it through the right side of the infield for a 2-RBI single which gave the Royals a lead they would never relinquish.
Covey mostly settled down but continued to fight his control the rest of the game. He struck out 3 but also walked 3 across 6 innings and seemed to always be behind hitters. Salvy and Jorge Soler hit back-to-back doubles in the fifth to extend the Royals’ lead.
Eric Skoglund, on the other hand, didn’t just settle down for the first inning. He retired the next 15 batters he faced after allowing the home run while striking out 7. Ultimately Skoglund had the best start of his career. He finished the night allowing only 2 hits, 1 walk, 1 run, and he struck out 9 in 7 innings. His curveball, in particular, was absolutely filthy. He regularly nailed the corners and took full advantage of a somewhat wide strike zone. Eric went a long way toward proving that he isn’t entirely hopeless. Considering his ranking in their farm system it would be really helpful for him to be not hopeless.
Brad Keller pitched the eighth inning and allowed a run. Alex Gordon got the run back with an RBI double high off the bullpen wall in right field, however. It was his third RBI of the game and the season. Alex now has 8 hits in 5 games since returning from the DL earlier this week. They’ve been hit to all fields and aren’t entirely without power, either. If he’s back to being able to actually hit a little then the team just got a lot easier to watch, at least.
Kelvin Herrera pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his fifth save of the season. If the Royals are on pace for 37 wins he’s on pace to save 31 of them. Assuming he’s still on the team at the end of the year. But for now, the Royals have averted the ignominy of a 5-game sweep at the hand of one of the other worst teams in the American League. Tomorrow will be the final game of the series. Ian Kennedy will pitch for the Royals while trying to prove that his toe is healthy but the White Sox have not yet announced their starting pitcher.