GLENDALE, Ariz. -- To the Chicago White Sox, they are that annoying twitch in the eye, that large pimple on the nose. They are root canal without Novocain, a pounding headache that doesn’t go away.
They are the Kansas City Royals, who last year led the major leagues in sticking it to the White Sox.
“Kansas City, since I’ve been here, they’ve given us hell,” Alex Rios, a man who still feels the burn of purgatory last season, said. The White Sox went 6-12 against the 90-loss Royals. If they had just gone 10-8, they would have beaten out the Detroit Tigers for the Central Division title.
Mention the word “Royals” to a White Sox player and you can see the agony. Heaven knows they feel it.
Like Addison Reed.
He and Chris Sale weren’t even alive the last time Kansas City made the playoffs (1985). But during one particular outing in May, Reed might have wished he had never been born.
“In the beginning of the year, I gave up six runs against Kansas City in that last inning. I don’t think I felt more lonely on the mound ever in my life,” Reed said about his six-run, one-out performance. The White Sox lost, 9-1. “It seemed like whatever I threw out there, they were hitting. It just kind of went downhill after those first couple runs.”
For the season, Reed finished with a 16.50 ERA against the Royals. In six total innings, he gave up 11 earned runs, which were 36 percent of all the runs Reed gave up the entire season.
Sale lost eight games in 2012. Three were to the Royals, three more were against the Tigers, who also went 12-6 vs. the White Sox.
You can barely stomach that record against Detroit. Kansas City was 18 games of indigestion.
“It was tough is what it was, and I was right there in the front seat of all of it,” Sale admits. “I didn’t beat Detroit one time last year, I believe.”
He was 0-3.
“I think half of my losses were from the Royals.” Almost.
“I was right in the thick of it. I guess I was the main key to that,” Sale said.
I asked Reed for his toughest out in the league. He thought for a moment, harkened back to last season and had an easy answer.
“How about the whole Royals lineup? I can’t think of a certain player I’ve struggled against. I know I’ve struggled against the Royals, so let’s just go 1 through 9 on the Royals.”
How can you explain last year’s dominance?
“It’s something that’s just unexplainable,” Rios said. “Every time we play them, it’s not an easy game. I don’t think you can change things that much. You could, but that’s not the point of this game.”
Does the manager have an answer?
“That’s sports,” said Robin Ventura. “If you could figure that out already, it wouldn’t happen. That’s why you play the games and you go through it. For some reason they played well against us. We have to figure out a way to change it.”
Fortunately, or unfortunately, the White Sox won’t have to wait long. The Royals are the first team on their schedule. They come to U.S. Cellular Field for Opening Day on April 1.
Sale is the favorite to be the starter. Reed will be hoping to close it.
“Some teams have their teams, some pitchers have their hitters, and hitters have their pitchers where they think they own them,” Sale said. “Hopefully, we can change that this year, and I think we will.”
“It’s a new year. I’m going to go out there and try and get everybody out,” added Reed. “Different results this year.”