Major League Baseball

Royals, White Sox ready for rubber game of series

mlb10WHITE SOX (30-33) AT ROYALS (20-44)
2:15 p.m. ET; FSKC, WGN, MLB.TV

The visiting Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals will play the rubber game of their three-game series Sunday.

While the White Sox are 4-3 in rubber games this season, the Royals have lost their last 13 episodes dating back to May 30, 2018.

Chicago will send Reynaldo Lopez (3-6, 6.62 ERA) to the mound for the series finale. He hasn’t been an innings-eater for Chicago. He’s pitched more than six innings only once in 13 starts, and he’s averaged just over five per start. He’s 1-1 with a 5.74 in three starts against Kansas City this year. He’s 0-2 with a 12.83 ERA in his last three starts overall.

Lopez will be helped by his catcher, James McCann, who has built his career on being a strong defensive player. He didn’t make an error until his third season in the major leagues. His best trait has been throwing out prospective baserunners. He has a 37 percent caught-stealing ratio (112 out of 306 attempts), compared to the league average of 29 percent. He’s at 33 percent this season (six of 18).

Lucas Giolito, who pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings in Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Kansas City, gave McCann the most credit.

“McCann had a really good game plan,” were the first words out of his mouth after his eighth straight victory.

This season, McCann has added stats befitting a clean-up hitter, a role he’s filled 16 times in 39 starts, including the first two games of the White Sox series with the Royals. He hasn’t shown the power numbers as much as batting average (.333, four home runs, 15 RBIs), but considering the fact that he’s a career .248 hitter, with his best season a .264 average as a rookie in 2015, this is strange new ground.

“Honestly, the biggest thing that I can attribute to is just staying within myself,” McCann said of his newfound success. “I’m not trying to hit the six-run homer that’s impossible to hit. I’m taking what’s given to me. If that means taking a pitch and hitting it the other way, if that means pulling a pitch, whatever it means. At the end of the day it’s just trying to stay within myself and not try to do too much.”

He started the season in the eighth spot but gradually moved closer to the middle of the lineup. With the exception of one start, he’s either batted fourth or fifth in every start since late-April.

Kansas City will hope to get more than an inning out of Glenn Sparkman (1-1, 3.77 ERA) against the White Sox. He allowed four runs on three hits in one inning in his last outing against Chicago. He was ejected in the second inning after hitting Tim Anderson in the head to start the second inning. He was surprised he got tossed so quickly.

“It was a complete accident,” he said. “I was surprised I didn’t get a warning first.”

The Royals’ history of animosity with the White Sox may have entered into the quick hook, but Sparkman said he has no history with that opponent.

“I have nothing against them at all. I just try to go out there and pitch my game.”

So far this year, that’s been pretty good, especially at Kauffman Stadium. In two starts at home, Sparkman has allowed one earned run in 12 1/3 innings.

–Field Level Media

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