The Royals final road series of the year takes them to Chicago. They still have one more road game after that in New York, but the last series is against the White Sox, a team that has had some bright spots in the final few weeks of the season now that they have so much of their young talent in the big leagues. It’s not all that dissimilar to the 2011 Royals, but the White Sox might be a little more raw. Still, the talent has allowed them to put up some runs from time to time and the pitching might be pretty close, so this is a series the Royals should win, but as we saw a couple weeks ago in Kansas City, it’s no gimme.
White Sox Vitals
|Standings||5th Place, AL Central|
|Team SP DRA||6.02|
|Team RP DRA||5.19|
|Team WARP Leader||Jose Abreu, 3.9|
|2017 Record vs. Royals||8-8|
White Sox vs. Royals
White Sox Projected Lineup
You can’t question the stuff for Lopez, but you can easily see why he might be better as a short reliever. He’s gone at least six innings in his four September starts, but he just hasn’t been that good. He’s struck out just four in his last three starts over 19 innings. He’s also walked only four, but that’s just not going to get it done in the long run. This will be his third time facing the Royals in seven starts for the White Sox, so that’s an interesting twist as well. He’s given up five runs on 12 hits over 12 innings in the first two starts, both White Sox wins.
Lopez is a three-pitch pitcher. He uses his four-seam fastball about 61 percent of the time and it comes in at around 95 mph with movement at times, but it can straighten out. He also has a changeup and a curve, which have both been interesting this year. The changeup can be nasty, but when it flattens out, it gets hit quite hard with a .306 ISO allowed. The Royals actually do okay against changeups, in spite of the popular narrative, so if he doesn’t have it, that could be good for them. Plus, we also know that Mike Moustakas has had success against him and it looks like he might be feeling a lot better after hitting the ball well in Toronto and finally breaking the team home run record. Lopez has already surpassed his career high in innings pitched he set last season, which I wouldn’t really note other than that he had his lowest average fastball velocity of the season in his last start. It was still plenty, but it’s worth watching.
This won’t go down as Hammel’s best season ever, but if he goes seven, he’ll set his career high for innings pitched. For a really long stretch of games, Hammel was everything he was supposed to be, but he’s fallen off badly over his last two starts, giving up 12 runs in 9.1 innings. One of those starts was against these very White Sox, going just 3.1 innings and giving up five runs. Is he worn down or is this just a blip? I guess that’s the question right now. With his history of second half struggles, I’d tend to bet on the former, but the Royals need him to be the good ol’ six inning, three run Hammel in this one.
The White Sox picked Covey in the Rule 5 draft this past winter and he’ll make it the whole season on the big league roster, but he is decidedly not yet a big league pitcher. He comes by his 8.18 ERA honestly with 33 strikeouts, 31 walks, 18 homers allowed and 74 total hits allowed in 58.1 innings. He may someday be something, but right now, this is a pitcher the Royals should hit and hit hard.
He is a four-seam and two-seam guy, averaging about 92-93 mph on each, with some decent enough movement on the two-seamer. Neither pitch is worrisome to an opponent, but when he’s on he’ll get some grounders. He also has a cutter, curve and changeup. I’m curious to see how Don Cooper can help him refine the cutter to see if he can turn him into something with it because there are very occasional flashes of a plus pitch. On the whole, it’s been destroyed along with really everything but his changeup. But in watching him a few times, you see the occasional good cutter and know that Cooper is up to something. The lack of stuff is really a problem for him. I mentioned the strikeout numbers, but it’s really even more jarring when you see that he’s allowed a .286 average and .554 slugging percentage when he’s ahead in the count. It’s way worse when he’s behind, but to give up that kind of contact when he has the advantage says all that needs to be said.
Duffy will get a few more pitches to work with in his second start back from the disabled list. He was good against Cleveland in his last outing, striking out eight and walking nobody over five innings. He also gave up just one hit, but it was unfortunately a two-run homer after a Whit Merrifield error. He now has five straight starts with at least seven strikeouts. If you want to be concerned, he’s allowed 17 runs in 16 innings against the White Sox this season, but I think he has a chance to do realy well in this one.
The difference between Giolito’s ERA and DRA is pretty striking to me. Part of it is that he’s allowed a .186 BABIP with a fair amount of hard contact to go along with a lot of homers, not a ton of strikeouts and a nearly 90 percent strand rate. But the other part of it is sample size. The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in the middle with Giolito. The White Sox seem to be getting him back to what made him a top prospect, which is scary for the rest of the AL Central, but I also think he can be beaten.
He relies heavily on a four-seam fastball that averages about 93 mph. It sure seems to have much more movement than it did last season when I saw him pitch a few times. He also has a changeup, slider, curve and the occasional sinker. The fastball is the interesting pitch to me as he’s allowed a .194 average on it, but has allowed a .508 slugging percentage thanks to six home runs in just 67 at bats that ended on the pitch. If the Royals are going to get to Giolito, it’s probably going to be because Salvador Perez, Mike Moustakas and Melky Cabrera got to him. Those three all have a better than .500 SLG against four-seamers from right-handed pitchers this season. Other guys like Brandon Moss and Eric Hosmer have had success as well, but those three have been the best, so they’re the best bets to get it done. The other thing to keep in mind is not to worry if the Royals don’t get to him early. Giolito has allowed a .432 OPS the first time through the order and then .877 the second time. Patience is a virtue here.
Gaviglio has been good for the Royals in his three games. He’s shown solid control and kept the ball in the yard, which is an issue he had with the Mariners. I’m not quite sure how he’s doing it, which has me worried in a park where mistakes don’t get forgiven. He did get the win against the White Sox in Kansas City by going five innings and giving up two runs with five strikeouts and no walks. I’m sure the Royals would gladly take that on Sunday.
The Royals really need to sweep this series, and I think they can, but I don’t think they will. The starting pitching just concerns me too much to make me think they’ll actually do it. I think they take two of three, which keeps them alive into the final week of the season, but unless the Tigers somehow get some wins this weekend, the two of three won’t be enough.