Powered by home runs (again) and another strong start from Jorge Lopez (?), the Royals clinched the season series against the White Sox with a 6-3 win on Thursday afternoon.
Jorge Soler stayed scorching hot, starting off the afternoon by hitting an absolute tank with one-out in the first to give the Royals a quick 1-0 lead. The home run traveled 445 feet, exited Soler’s bat at 112 MPH, and was his third home run in the last 18 hours.
#Royals 1 @ #WhiteSox 0 [T1-1o]:— Home Run Tracker (@DingerTracker) September 12, 2019
Jorge Soler homers (44): fly ball to LCF (solo)
Hit: 445.7ft , 112.69mph , 32.56°
Pitch: 94.1mph Four-Seam Fastball (RHP Lucas Giolito, 23) pic.twitter.com/kw97NXIaQO
After another Kansas City run in the 3rd, the White Sox cut that lead in half on a jam shot single by Eloy Jimenez to shallow center field. However, Whit Merrifield made a terrific diving stop and was able to throw out Jose Abreu trying to score from second to keep it a 2-1 game.
The Royals were fortunate to get to White Sox starter Lucas Giolito. Staring with Whit Merrifield in the 3rd, Giolito struck out eight straight Royals, ending the streak with Nicky Lopez’s two-out ground out in the 5th. Through five, Giolito had 10 strikeouts.
While he wasn’t as flashy, Royals starter Jorge Lopez was also quietly putting together a nice start. Aside from an unearned run in the 3rd, Lopez cruised into the 5th, where he found some trouble.
Adam Engel led off with an infield single and moved to third on a Yoan Moncada single. Lopez was almost given a gift when Moncada attempted to bunt twice, but he eventually thought better of it. Lopez put himself in position to get an inning-ending double play after Tim Anderson popped out to 2nd. Instead, Abreu drove in his 115th run on the season with a sacrifice fly to center, tying the game at 2-2.
Lopez got Jimenez to ground out, ending an inning that could have ended much worse. And that is especially true for Lopez, with opposing batter hitting a whopping .536 with runners on base and nobody out.
Including his eight consecutive strikeouts, Giolito had retired 10 straight Royals heading into the 6th, but that quickly ended. Merrifield led off with a walk and moved to 2nd on a Soler single. Hunter Dozier then hit his 26th home run of the season, putting the Royals up 5-2. Dozier is just one extra-base hit shy of 60 on the season despite missing nearly a month of games.
Giolito responded with two more strikeouts, giving him 12 on the afternoon. That left him just one strikeout shy of tying his career-high of 13 set back on August 11. Giolito has been on a pretty incredible strikeout run as of late, with four of his seven double-digit strikeout performances coming in the past 32 days. Since August 11, both Giolito and Justin Verlander have 58 punchouts, the most in baseball.
The White Sox offense also responded positively to Dozier’s home run. James McCann led off the bottom half of the 6th with a double and moved to third on an infield single by Daniel Palka. It should be noted that the hit was Palka’s second on the season in 57 at-bats. For those doing the math at home, that’s a .035 batting average. He came into the at-bat hitting just .018, so the hit almost literally doubled his batting average.
But those are minor details. Kansas City was able again to limit the damage, giving up just one run despite facing runners on first and third with nobody out. Yolmer Sanchez brought home McCann on a sac fly before Tim Hill replaced Lopez and was able to strike out Danny Mendrick and Engel to end the inning.
It wasn’t pretty, but Lopez delivered his second strong start. Despite giving up eight hits and two walks in just 5.1 innings, Lopez was able to hold the White Sox to just two earned runs.
The White Sox threatened again in the 7th but Kansas City caught a big break. It looked like McCann had gotten himself a two-out RBI on a single to left, but Anderson slipped on his turn around third base and had to stay put, loading the bases. Gabe Speier was brought in to face Palka, but instead faced pinch hitter Leury Garcia and was able to strike him out, ending the inning.
The Royals added a run in the 9th for good measure, making it 6-3 on a 3-0 wild pitch that allowed Bubba Starling to score. Pinch hitter Adalberto Mondesi also flailed at the pitch to stay on brand.
Chicago wasn’t going to make it easy, however. Ian Kennedy labored, allowing the White Sox to load the bases and bring the winning run to the plate in Garcia with two outs. Entering the afternoon, Garcia was 0-12 against Kennedy with a few walks to his credit.
However, Kennedy struck out Garcia on his 29th pitch to record his 29th save and secure a series victory. The strikeout clinched the season-series as well and gave the Royals their 55th win on the season. They need to go 8-7 the rest of the way to avoid losing 100 games.
Up Next: Royals v. Astros, Friday, September 13, 7:15 PM CDT, Kauffman Stadium. LHP Danny Duffy (6-6, 4.71 ERA) v. Gerrit Cole (16-5, 2.73 ERA)