The Royals return to Kansas City for their penultimate homestand of the 2018 season and take on the Chicago White Sox in a three-game set. I thought the White Sox might surprise this season and finish decently. Instead, they’re significantly under .500 and while there’s tons of talent, there are still questions about them moving forward. Plus, they’ve lost five in a row. It definitely doesn’t help that they’ve now lost Michael Kopech for all of 2019. Adding Eloy Jimenez at some point next year will help, but the offense now looks relatively average. On the pitching side, Lucas Giolito has turned things around a bit and looked better, but he’s gone through stretches like this previously. Carlos Rodon is a legitimately good starting pitcher, but there are questions about the rest of the rotation.
White Sox Vitals
|56-87, 4th Place, AL Central
|Team SP DRA
|Team RP DRA
|Team WARP Leader
|Tim Anderson, 3.2
|Record vs. Royals
Royals vs. White Sox
White Sox Projected Lineup
Projected Pitching Matchups
Monday – 7:15 pm
Things have generally been going a bit better for Giolito, but he’s still inconsistent. Still, since the start of August, he’s gone 3-2 with a 4.66 ERA, which isn’t the real story. The story is that he’s struck out 43 in 38.2 innings, allowed just 30 hits and walked 14. So yes, he’s definitely been better and has flashed some of the promise that made him a top prospect and made him such an important piece in the return for Adam Eaton. As bad as he’s generally been, he’s really handled the Royals since coming to the White Sox. He’s 3-0 in five starts with a 2.01 ERA in 31.1 innings. He’s struck out just 17, so we’ll see if his improvement is for real in this one. My guess is he handles the Royals, but this young team has surprised some.
Junis is on one now and looking like the guy we were so excited about in spring training and earlier this year. With seven two-hit, shutout innings against the Indians (with no walks, I might add), he’s padded his post-DL stats some more now having gone 52.1 innings in nine starts with 49 hits allowed, 53 strikeouts and a 2.75 ERA. The six unearned runs still loom, but even adding those in, he’s still at just a 3.78 RA, which is perfectly acceptable. I’ll say again what I’ve said a few times since his DL stint as well. With just three home runs allowed, it maybe does lend some credence to the idea that his back was a bigger problem than we originally thought. The White Sox haven’t been a good matchup for him. He’s faced them three times this year and gone 1-1 with a 6.48 ERA with six home runs allowed in 16.2 innings against them. Two of those times were in August and weren’t nearly as bad as the first time, but there’s still a bad track record this season.
Tuesday – 7:15 pm
Dylan Covey isn’t very good, which would be a nice pickup for the Royals offense. Of course I say that and Covey has been decent against the Royals this year at times. He throws a hard sinker that can be very good at times, but other times can be a trainwreck pitch. His changeup has been outstanding this season, holding opponents to a .088 average and .158 slugging percentage with 20 strikeouts on it, so that’s one to watch out for. And on a team of somewhat aggressive young hitters, it could be the difference between getting crushed and getting through six for him. Lefties have hit him much better and he’s fared much better at home than on the road. All that, to me, adds up to a potential big night for guys like Ryan O’Hearn, Adalberto Mondesi and maybe even Brian Goodwin.
There’s every chance in the world that this is the best Keller will ever be, but it’s really encouraging to watch him get hitters out in different ways all the time. He’s still not getting enough whiffs, but he’s done much better recently and does have 45 strikeouts in 57 innings since the break. No, that’s not enough, but it plays with all the ground balls he allows. And since the start of August, his swinging strike rate and 19.8 percent strikeout rate will work. I still would like to see some improvement through his last few starts to make me feel better about his prospects moving forward, but the results have just been so strong for a guy in his position. He struck out 14 in 11.1 innings against the White Sox in August, so maybe we’ll see another big strikeout game for him in this one.
Wednesday – 7:15 pm
A number of things have stopped Rodon from putting it all together, but among them are injuries, and now that he’s healthy this season, he’s been mostly very good. Still, it’s hard not to notice his strikeouts are way down, though so are his hits allowed. His slider is still his best pitch, and he’s allowed a .067 average on it with a .112 SLG in 89 at bats that have ended on it. That’s crazy. Of those 89, 50 have ended with a strikeout. Yikes! As good as he’s been this year, he’s probably due for some regression for a few reasons. One, he has been absolutely unreal with runners in scoring position, allowing a .145/.256/.237 line with runners in scoring position. The sample is small since he hasn’t thrown that many innings, but that seems likely to turn around. Another is that I’m not sure his four-seam fastball is as good as the numbers against it have been. He doesn’t get a ton of swings and misses on it, he doesn’t throw it for strikes nearly enough and it’s not an especially elite spin rate pitch or anything. I don’t know. It just seems like that’s a pitch that can get him in trouble and he’s somewhat lucky it hasn’t yet. The Royals have hit him decently in his career with 35 hits against him in 27.2 innings. Of course, they haven’t faced him since 2016, so the sample isn’t exactly current.
I’m not exactly excited about Skoglund’s return to the rotation because I still don’t believe in him, but I was also sort of disappointed when he got hurt because this is the year to evaluate. He posted about what you’d expect for a AAAA pitcher on a rehab assignment, and now it looks like he’ll get three or four starts before the end of the season to both see what he can do and prove he’s healthy heading into 2019. If you’re looking for a reason for hope, Skoglund’s best start came against the White Sox in April when he went seven innings and gave up one run and just two hits while striking out nine. That was the game that his curve was so outstanding, giving hope that maybe he had a plus pitch to work with. Maybe he’ll flash it again in this one.
The Royals are playing much better at home recently, but the White Sox have the Royals number. I’m going to say that the Royals play well this series, but end up winning just one of three and getting a couple steps closer to their fifth 100-loss season in franchise history.