Melky Cabrera

Series Preview: Royals vs. Chicago White Sox, May 26-29

The Kansas City Royals welcome the Chicago White Sox to town for a fourthree-game series that looks like a pretty big one. It’s at least as big as a series can be in late May. As you know, the Royals took two of three from the White Sox last weekend in Chicago, but failed to secure the sweep when they lost game three on Sunday. The Royals are 188-165 all-time against the White Sox in Kansas City, which includes an 11-7 record the last two seasons.

The White Sox could be worn down a bit coming off four games in three days against the Cleveland Indians, so maybe the Royals are catching them coming into town at a good time. The rainout was probably good for the White Sox after coming off four games in three days against Cleveland.

Since the two teams just played last weekend, I won’t go nearly as in depth with the team description, so you can refer to last week’s preview for that information.

But I’ll give you a look at what the White Sox roster has done recently.

White Sox Offense

Here is a snapshot of the White Sox offense over the last couple weeks:

Jose Abreu .291 .316 .418 1 5 0
Alex Avila .130 .276 .174 0 2 0
Melky Cabrera .272 .322 .436 1 7 0
Adam Eaton .259 .303 .448 2 7 1
Todd Frazier .279 .385 .581 4 4 3
Avisail Garcia .210 .231 .237 0 1 1
Austin Jackson .239 .321 .326 0 5 1
Brett Lawrie .163 .255 .367 2 6 1
Dioner Navarro .286 .400 .571 0 0 0
Jimmy Rollins .181 .206 .303 1 3 1
Tyler Saladino .308 .321 .346 0 3 0
Jerry Sands .273 .273 .273 0 1 0

White Sox Pitching

Here’s a glimpse at the White Sox starters over the last month or so:

Miguel Gonzalez 0 1 4.66 21.2 19 10
Mat Latos 2 1 7.09 26.2 13 11
Jose Quintana 3 3 2.45 40.1 38 7
Carlos Rodon 1 2 4.73 32.1 31 9
Chris Sale 5 1 2.59 41.2 43 11

And here’s what their relievers have done in that time:

Matt Albers 12 1 0 0 2.08 13 15 5
Zach Duke 13 0 0 0 4.66 9.2 9 4
Dan Jennings 12 1 1 0 2.35 15.1 9 9
Nate Jones 10 1 0 0 3.24 8.1 9 2
Tommy Kahnle 3 0 0 0 0.00 3.1 1 2
Matt Purke 3 0 0 0 0.00 5.2 1 0
Zach Putnam 11 1 0 0 2.25 12 14 5
David Robertson 9 0 0 5 0.87 10.1 11 5

Game 1, Friday: Danny Duffy vs. Miguel Gonzalez

The Royals faced Gonzalez on Saturday in Chicago and he pitched very well against them, going six innings, allowing two runs and striking out eight, while walking nobody. He didn’t get the win, of course, but it was still a strong outing. If we’re being honest, that kind of performance against Miguel Gonzalez really shouldn’t happen, but the Royals offense is pretty up and down. Facing an opponent for the second time in a week is not easy, but there will be a decent amount of that in this series. Gonzalez is now 1-4 with a 4.66 ERA in five career regular season starts against the Royals.

Three things to watch for against Gonzalez:

  1. Gonzalez uses a low-90s fastball a little less than a third of the time, but backed off it a lot against the Royals. It might be because it’s gotten hit very hard this year. He also throws a sinker at about 92 MPH, which was the pitch he leaned on against the Royals. The split is really his number two pitch, and has probably been his best offering this season. It’s not a hard splitter at about 84-85 MPH, but it’s been really effective. He also throws a curve, slider and a cutter.
  2. I wonder if Gonzalez wouldn’t be more effective in middle relief. I just don’t think he has the stuff to last through a lineup more than a couple times. He doesn’t have great stuff to start, but it might play up in a shorter role. Anyway, the reason I came to that conclusion is because he actually pitches effectively on his first 50 pitches or so before he begins to get rocked once his pitch count starts to rise. The same is true when he sees a lineup a third and fourth time.
  3. He’s held lefties down this season to a .758 OPS, which isn’t great, but it’s signifcantly better than the .859 OPS that righties have hit off him. Jarrod Dyson and Lorenzo Cain have both hit him well in nine plate appearances each, while Cain is joined by Salvador Perez and Kendrys Morales among Royals hitters with home runs against him.

While it’s tough for Gonzalez to face the Royals for the second time in a week, Duffy is doing the same thing with the White Sox. In fact, this is just a rematch from Saturday’s game. After throwing 48 pitches in his first start and 63 in his last start, I’d expect Duffy’s pitch count in this one to be in the 75-85 range, which can mean just about anything for him. As a starter, he’s actually incorporated a sinker more than he had in the past, but he’s still throwing a lot of hard stuff. We’ll see if he incorporates more off speed stuff when he faces a lineup a third time to see . That’ll be the true test of whether or not Duffy can get back to the rotation full time. After 4.1 shutout innings against the White Sox on Saturday, Duffy’s career line against them is now a 3-2 record with a 3.33 ERA in 12 games (10 starts). Navarro, Abreu, Saladino and Jackson have all homered against him, but no other White Sox have hit well off him.

Game 2, Saturday: Yordano Ventura vs. Carlos Rodon

Rodon, like Gonzalez, Duffy, and his opponent in this game, will be facing the same team for the second time in less than a week. We touched on this last week, but Rodon isn’t where the White Sox expected him to be this season after a solid rookie season. It’s easy to see why he was such a high draft pick, though. Even in a good start against the Royals, he gave up a lot of hits and didn’t have the strikeouts that a pitcher with his stuff should get. I’m not sure the Royals will hit him, but that start showed they’re certainly capable of it. That was his first time facing the Royals in his career.

Three things to watch for against Rodon:

  1. Rodon is a fastball/sinker guy, throwing each of those pitches about a third of the time, but like Gonzalez, he really backed off his fastball against the Royals, throwing it just under 11 percent of the time. He used his sinker a lot more. They’re both at about 93 MPH with some good movement and he gets a lot of grounders. The fastball has been hit well, so maybe that’s why he backed off it, but the Royals do have a reputation for hitting fastballs well. The sinker has been pretty good this season. His best pitch is his slider and was very tough on the Royals. He throws it in all counts, but it’s obviously the most dangerous on two-strike counts.
  2. The Royals seemed to have a first pitch swing philosophy against Rodon on Sunday, which does make some sense becasue opponents are hitting .500 with a .792 SLG on that pitch, but a lot of first pitch swings on Rodon don’t actually end the at bat. He gets a ton of foul balls and swings and misses on that first pitch becuase he isn’t afraid to use his slider in any count. In fact, more than half the time a batter swings at the first pitch, it’s 0-1. The success is there when contact is made and the ball is put in play, but Rodon is wild enough that I think patience is the game against him.
  3. He’s been so tough on lefties this year, which isn’t surprising given his size. He’s allowed a .540 OPS to them compared with .822 to righties. Given Eric Hosmer’s struggles lately, this might be a nice oppportunity to actually get him a day off, though he did get a hit off him on Sunday. Cain and Paulo Orlando each had two hits against him, but who hasn’t Orlando hit lately?

Ventura remains an enigma. The stuff is there. There’s no question about that. But that fastball command is just a disaster at times. Other times, he looks like he could win a Cy Young. On Sunday against the White Sox, I felt that he didn’t use his off speed pitches enough to put away hitters, which ultimately led to the hit that turned out to be the game-winner. Maybe he’ll utilize that more in this start and the White Sox will be off balance because of it, but he just has to be better. Sunday was the fourth time out of nine starts that he’d walked four or more batters, so we can pinpoint the problem right there. He wasn’t horrible on Sunday, giving up three runs in six innings, but he needs to be better. After that start, he has a career 2-3 record with a 4.28 ERA in seven starts against the White Sox. Frazier and Abreu have both homered off him, while Cabrera has some hits too, but he’s fared well against a lot of the White Sox hitters.

Game 3, Sunday: Edinson Volquez vs. Chris Sale

Sale was perfect. Until he wasn’t. It was a remarkable first nine games of the season for the White Sox ace before he ran into the Indians and took his first loss of the year, but he’s still 9-1 with a 2.26 ERA, so let’s not write the obituary just yet for him. Still, it’s nice to know that he can be beat. Sale had taken a slightly different approach this year, trading strikeouts for contact in an effort to get deeper into games. I personally am not much of a fan of that approach, considering he was getting plenty deep into games with the strikeout before. He is averaging more outs per start, but not by many and I think there’s an unnecessary risk of pitching to contact when you have the stuff to strike out hitters like Sale does. The Royals actually hit Sale a little bit with more hits than innings he’s thrown. Of course, he still has a 2.84 ERA against Kansas City, but with a 7-9 record in 26 games (15 starts).

Three things to watch for against Sale:

  1. Sale’s fastball velocity is down about 2 MPH from last season to just under 94 MPH. I’m not sure if that’s by design or a warning sign that he’s slowing down, but it’s worth noting. He throws that about 40 percent of the time and his sinker a little more than 20 percent of the time. The sinker is also down a similar velocity, if you’re into knowing that sort of thing. He has a great slider that’s been as good as ever and a really solid changeup that he uses as well. This may come as a shock to you, but Sale is good at pitching.
  2. If you’re looking for a weakness with Sale, they’re not exactly there for the taking. He holds opponents to a .578 OPS when he’s behind in the count. He doesn’t even really get hit harder as the game goes on. He’s great with the bases empty and with runners on and with runners in scoring position. He doesn’t give up much on the first pitch. He’s even pretty good at keeping base stealers at bay. This is a tough matchup for anybody.
  3. Sale has a pretty big platoon split, but he’s great against everybody. He’s allowed a .539 OPS to righties and an incredible .357 OPS to lefties. That’s crazy. Maybe this is the game Hosmer should sit. Some Royals have actually hit him really well in the past. Orlando and Morales both have homers against him. Cain has three homers against him and a .349 average with a .628 SLG. Alcides Escobar even has 20 hits against him. So that’s where the hope lies.

Volquez is coming off sort of an uneven start in Minnesota where he was hurt by some outfield defense. He went 6.2 innings and gave up four runs, but just two were earned. He’s been kind of up and down over the last month or so, fighting control issues, but I will say that his stuff has been really good lately, so that’s not a concern at all. It’d be nice for him to find some consistency, though, because the Royals will need a solid performance to stay in the game against Sale. Volquez is 2-3 with a 2.63 ERA in six career starts against the White Sox. He was 2-2 with a 1.64 ERA in five starts against them last year. Avila and Cabrera have torched him for homers, but he’s basically held down everyone else.

The Prediction

I want to say the Royals sweep here because the Royals are looking so much better, even without Moustakas, and the White Sox have had their issues, but I’m concerned about Rodon being able to shut down the Royals. I’m going to be conservative and say two of three for the Royals, but just know I really wanted to say the Royals would sweep, but I couldn’t pull the trigger.

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