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Greinke and late offense propels Royals in series-clinching 5-3 win

The Royals didn’t hit Dylan Cease all that hard, but they beat him

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Kansas City Royals Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Entering today’s start against the Royals, White Sox starter Dylan Cease hadn’t given up more than one run in 11 consecutive starts. That continued today. Fortunately for the Royals, Zack Greinke out-dueled him and got some late offensive help, holding off the White Sox in a 5-3 win. The Royals take back-to-back four-game series’ for the first time in eight years.

The Royals offense went up early in the 2nd, thanks to the piping hot Vinnie Pasquantino. Vinnie clobbered a 3-2 slider from White Sox starter Dylan Cease, sending it into the Royals bullpen to put Kansas City up 1-0.

Pasquantino entered the contest with a 131 wRC+ since July 25th and the home run was his third in as many days. And it wasn’t the first ball they hit hard against Chicago’s Cy Young candidate. Salvador Perez sent a ball to the warning track in the 1st, as did Nick Pratto later in the 2nd inning. However, Vinnie’s homer remained the lone hit against Cease until Nate Eaton’s 5th inning single.

The White Sox responded to Vinnie’s homer with back-to-back-to-back singles off Royals starter Zack Greinke to open the 3rd, bringing up the heart of its order. The former Cy Young responded with a Houdini act, striking out Eloy Jimenez and Jose Abreu, before inducing a ground out from Yasmani Grandal to get out of the inning unscathed.

Grandal took him to the brink, thanks in part to a missed strike call on 1-0 that made it a 2-0 count and ultimately becoming a 3-0 count. But in fitting fashion given how the inning began, Greinke fought back to fill the count before getting the all-important 3rd out. After the taxing 26 pitch inning, Greinke responded with a nine pitch 4th to stabilize his outing.

Kansas City saw its first proper baserunners in the 4th with walks from Michael Massey and Pasquantino. Cease responded by striking out the side, including two on ugly at-bats from Salvador Perez and Hunter Dozier.

Greinke found himself in more trouble in the 6th, after singles from Jimenez and Grandal put runners on the corners with one out. However, Greinke again worked out of it with a huge strikeout of Yoan Moncada and eventually a flyout from Josh Harrison.

Despite a strong performance from Vinnie, which also included a walk and a near-walk, the Royals offense struggled against Cease, who entered the afternoon with 11 consecutive outings allowing one run or fewer. Kansas City managed just three hits against Cease, while striking out eight times. The Pasquantino homer represented the only run for the Royals against Cease, extending that streak to 12 games.

That made Greinke’s bulldog performance all the more important. An infield single and an error by Dozier ended Greinke’s afternoon after 6.1 innings. Jose Cuas got a pair of ground outs to keep the White Sox scoreless, leaving Cease with a no-decision and Greinke in line for the win. Greinke’s scoreless outing included five strikeouts and no walks, although Chicago did manage nine hits off the 38-year-old. With that said, they were all singles and the start was Greinke’s best of the season. It was just his 2nd scoreless effort of 2022 and also the first time he had pitched into the 7th inning this season.

It was also another good start from a Royals starter, a nice development from the last month.

The Royals were relieved to see Cease replaced by Joe Kelly in the 7th, coming to life a bit. Dozier led off the 7th with a walk and was replaced by pinch-runner Bobby Witt Jr. Witt put significant pressure on Kelly, drawing several throws over, and ultimately moving to third on a bloop single from Nick Pratto.

With runners on the corner and nobody out, a Moncada diving stop saved a run, but moved Pratto up to 2nd for Nicky Lopez. After Kelly was removed due to injury, Lopez lined a single into left-center off new reliever Jose Ruiz, driving in both runners, and putting Kansas City up 3-0.

After a review-aided stolen base from Lopez, MJ Melendez joined the party with a two-out RBI single to right, making it 4-0 Royals.

A two-run homer from Grandal in the 8th cut that lead in half at 4-2. Moncada followed with a walk, forcing Mike Matheny to go get Cuas in favor of Wyatt Mills with the tying run coming to the plate. Singles from Harrison and Gavin Sheets loaded the bases, but Luis Robert lined out to Kyle Isbel to end the inning.

Kansas City added another insurance run in the 8th, after Witt Jr singled, stole second, and scored on a Michael A. Taylor single, making it 5-2.

Scott Barlow gave up a lead-off homer to Andrew Vaughn on an 0-2 breaking ball in the 9th, bringing the lead down to 5-3, but then put the White Sox to bed, sealing the game and the series.

The win improves the Royals record to 47-66 while the preseason favored White Sox drop back down to .500 at 56-56. Kansas City has won six of its last eight games and is now actually above .500 since June 15. That hot streak will be put to the test this weekend, with the the Dodgers coming to town, winners of 10 straight games. They hold the best record in baseball at 77-33.

Up Next: Royals v. Dodgers, Friday, August 12, 7:10 PM CDT, Kauffman Stadium. LHP Daniel Lynch (4-7, 4.79 ERA) v. RHP Tony Gonsolin (13-1, 2.30 ERA).