Mike Minor shaved off his goatee before his start tonight and it made him look ten years younger. Then he went out and pitched like he was ten years younger. Minor shoved tonight. I guess he heard all those times I said the Royals should move him to the bullpen. Minor pitched seven innings and struck out seven. He allowed only two hits all night. For the first couple of innings, he fought his command a bit but the stuff was as sharp tonight as it was when he pitched as a reliever for the Royals in 2017. The curveball in particular seemed absolutely deadly; it reminded me both of his stint in 2017 and of Wade Davis when Davis was last in Kansas City. The bottom would just drop out and leave hitters flailing helplessly or watching, mystified. After the first couple of innings Minor made only one mistake, a pitch that caught a bit too much of the inside part of the plate which Jose Abreu delivered into the leftfield bleachers for the only run the White Sox scored all night.
The Royals needed Minor’s best effort of the season tonight because they had White Sox starter Carlos Rodón on the ropes early but couldn’t ever deliver a true knockout blow. In the first inning, Whit Merrifield led off with a double before Carlos Santana - what else - walked. They performed a double steal to put runners at second and third with no one out. Rodón escaped the jam by striking out three and allowed only one run on a Jorge Soler jam shot. Merrifield and Santana repeated their act, sans the stolen bases, in the third inning and this time Salvador Perez took a pitch that seemed at least a foot high and away from the white strike zone box on TV and put it into the rightfield bullpen to give the Royals their margin of victory.
Carlos Santana tacked on a solo shot in the ninth inning just to remind everyone how much he loves hitting in the two-hole.
Homeplate umpire Larry Vanover did not have a good night calling balls and strikes. In particular, he called a pitch that was very clearly a strike against Carlos Santana as a ball before Santana ended up walking. This upset Rodón before the home run to Salvy and from that point until the end of the inning he was pitching angry and you could see it. He allowed the next two runners to reach but then, with some help from Kelvin Gutierrez swinging at pitches nowhere near the strike zone, escaped with no further damage done. Rodón ended up pitching five and two-thirds innings despite having more than 60 pitches after that third inning. The team left eight on base. If you add up the runners on base when outs were earned the Royals individually stranded 22 runners; a testament to just how often they had runners on - often in scoring position - and failed to bring them home across multiple outs. Perez was the biggest offender, failing to drive in five runners. Jarrod Dyson and Michael A Taylor both failed to score four runners.
Scott Barlow was asked to pitch the eighth inning. This was his nineteenth appearance this season in this, the thirty-ninth game. That means he’s pitched in nearly half of the Royals games, this season. That’s probably not sustainable. He ended up throwing 31 pitches, 19 strikes, in an adventure of an inning. Josh Staumont came on to close the game out despite it not being a save situation. Staumont also battled a bit and ended up throwing more than 20 pitches. The bullpen might be a bit shorthanded, tomorrow.
- Vanover’s strike zone was inconsistent but generally favored the Royals; pitches that were well within the strike zone for White Sox pitchers were called balls and pitches in the opposite batter’s box were called strike for the Royals. This is what it means to say that these things tend to even out. Also, keep an eye out for cranky White sox players in tomorrow’s game.
- The Royals stole four bases, all off of Rodón; they apparently picked up a tendency to avoid throwing to second. Lopez and Merrifield both stole third off of him and Santana stole second on the backend of a double steal. Taylor was the only runner to have a straight steal of second but there was a runner on third and White Sox catcher Zack Collins held the ball.
- This was Whit Merrifield’s first start in the outfield of the season as Andrew Benintendi and Ryan O’Hearn got the night off with the tough lefty on the mound.
- Carlos Rodón’s ERA climbed all the way from 0.58 to 1.47 with his first bad start of the year.
- Salvador Perez was pulled before the bottom half of the eighth inning for Cam Gallagher.
- For some reason, neither team wore caps on the field. It was weird.
The Royals will go for the series win tomorrow. Brady Singer (1-3 4.18 ERA) will pitch for the Royals. Dylan Cease (2-0 2.80 ERA) will pitch for the White Sox. Singer has pitched better than that ERA and been probably the most consistent Royals starter of the year. He’s not yet the ace of the staff - at least not yet - but he’s definitely justifying that first-round draft selection. It could be a very good pitcher’s duel with Cease also seeming to reach his own potential in his third major league season.