WHITE SOX (29-32) AT ROYALS (19-43)
8:15 p.m. ET; FSKC, NBCSCH, MLB.TV
The Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox are anomalies in today’s game, with both more focused on team speed than all-or-nothing at-bats.
Unfortunately, both teams are below .500 a little over two months into the season as they start their weekend three-game series in Kansas City on Friday.
The Royals lead the majors in stolen bases (57) and triples (26) by comfortable margins. They have the top two players in baseball in triples. Adalberto Mondesi leads the majors with eight, followed by Whit Merrifield with seven. Mondesi also tops the big leagues with 22 stolen bases, six more than his closest competitor.
Meanwhile, the White Sox rank fifth in the majors with 39 steals.
But another stat has gotten in the way of offensive success in Kansas City, especially in recent weeks. The Royals are in the middle of the pack (16th out of 30) in strikeouts. Only the Detroit Tigers have fewer than the Royals’ 65 home runs among the teams with more than their 543 strikeouts (8.75 per game).
Kansas City manager Ned Yost said that’s got to change.
“It’s a mindset,” he said. “Different organizations have different thoughts on it. Guys are trying to hit the ball in the air more. They don’t care if they strike out. We’re not that type of team. Strikeouts are important to us.
“We have to find ways to eliminate them if we’re going to be successful. We play in a big ballpark. Do we have guys who can hit it out? Yeah. (Jorge) Soler is going to hit 30 or 35 homers. (Hunter) Dozier probably is going to hit 30 homers. But our style of game is built around speed and situational-type baseball, being able to manufacture runs.
“The sit-back-and-let-it-rip mentality does not work for us. We’ve seen that here in the last two weeks.”
Since a May series against the Yankees, the Royals have struck out 129 times in 13 games. They’ve whiffed in double figures in nine of those games, including a season-high 16 at Texas on May 30. Kansas City is currently on a streak of five games with at least 10 strikeouts, including 11 in Thursday’s 7-5 loss to the Red Sox.
Maybe things will change with the next series, as the White Sox have struck out the fewest batters in the majors.
The White Sox will send right-hander Ivan Nova (3-5, 6.24 ERA) to the mound in the series opener. He will face righty Homer Bailey (4-6, 6.05 ERA) for Kansas City.
Nova has a 3.32 ERA over his past three starts, though he’s just 1-1 in those three games. His last outing was a loss against the Indians, which snapped Chicago’s season-high five-game winning streak.
Nova was strong until his last two innings against Cleveland. He went seven innings and gave up four runs (three earned) and six hits and didn’t allow a hit until the fourth.
“You can see the frustration here today,” catcher James McCann said after the Cleveland loss. “The game could have very easily gone the other way. It very easily could have been a 5-2 victory for us. That’s part of the game. We had a good streak, and guys are ready to bounce back.”
Nova has faced the Royals just once this year, a five-inning no-decision on May 27 in a game that was suspended by rain with the score tied after five innings.
In his career, he’s 2-1 with a 4.85 ERA in five starts against Kansas City.
Bailey has faced the White Sox once in his career, in that same rain-interrupted game. He allowed one run in 4 1/3 innings before the game was suspended and did not factor in the decision.
–Field Level Media