As highly as Robin Ventura thinks of his bullpen, he might have just as much respect for the Kansas City Royals’ relievers.
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The White Sox found out once again on Thursday afternoon why they’ve struggled against Kansas City over the last season-plus. The Royals’ bullpen followed starter Jeremy Guthrie’s sharp showing with three scoreless innings to nail down a 3-1 victory over the White Sox in front of 15,036 at U.S. Cellular Field.
Gavin Floyd (0-1) pitched well but took the loss as Aaron Crow, Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland closed Guthrie’s win to help the Royals avoid a season-opening series sweep.
Last season, Kansas City, which won 12 of 18 meetings against the White Sox, finished with a 3.17 bullpen ERA, good for sixth in the majors.
“It’s a pretty darn good bullpen,” White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers said. “They don’t seem to make many mistakes and when they do we definitely have to be ready to take advantage of those. They have multiple weapons out there. I’d say the best thing would be to get ahead so we don’t have to see all their top-end guys.”
The White Sox didn’t have a chance to follow Flowers’ advice.
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Guthrie (1-0) continued his dominance of the Sox as he only allowed a run and five hits in six innings while striking out nine. Guthrie saw his U.S. Cellular scoreless streak snapped at 21 innings but turned a 3-1 lead over to the bullpen.
Still, the White Sox managed chances in the seventh and ninth innings against Crow and Holland. Flowers, who reached base in all four plate appearances, and Gordon Beckham, who tied a career-high with four hits, started both rallies when they reached consecutively.
But Crow ended the seventh-inning threat as he got Alejandro De Aza, who drove in the White Sox only run with a fifth-inning single, to fly out and Jeff Keppinger to ground out. Two innings later, De Aza grounded out to first base with the tying runs aboard against Holland as the White Sox lost for the first time.
The White Sox, who struck out 12 times, finished 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners. They’re 1-for-14 on the season with 17 runners left on base.
“It’s odd you get that at the bottom of the order and you don’t get much out of it,” Ventura said. “It’s the pitching. Those guys find a way to get out of it and that’s the way it goes.”
Floyd got out in front of Royals hitters as he threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of 23 batters. The right-hander struck out four batters in his first four innings and didn’t get into trouble until he walked Eric Hosmer -- Floyd’s only base on balls -- with one out in the fifth. Jeff Francouer followed with a hit-and-run single and Kansas City was off and didn’t stop until it had a 3-0 lead. Jarrod Dyson had an RBI ground out and Chris Getz singled in a run and reached second on De Aza’s error ahead of Alex Gordon’s RBI double.
Floyd allowed three runs (two earned) and four hits in six innings with five strikeouts. But it wasn’t enough as Guthrie and the bullpen made the most of their limited support.
“There’s so many things in this game you can’t control,” Floyd said. “You just go pitch by pitch and give your best out there and whatever happens, I’m content. ... I’ve been working on a lot of stuff and felt like it came together pretty well today.”