White Sox have been feeling the Royal Pains

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White Sox have been feeling the Royal Pains

Once upon a time, the Los Angeles Dodgers had Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. The Atlanta Braves had Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.
Well, look out world. The Kansas City Royals now have their own vaunted 1-2 pitching combo:
Bruce Chen and Jeremy Guthrie.
For two nights, these journeymen pitchers threw kryptonite at the White Sox, who mustered just two measly runs against the Royals dynamic duo in 14.2 innings.
For Chen, it was his first win since June 26. For Guthrie, his first victory since May 31.
Youre wondering why that White Sox fan showed up to work today with all those cuts and bruises? He spent most of the night banging his head against the wall.
Chen was good, but Guthrie was great -- maybe the greatest of his major league career. Seriously. He was one inning away from his very first shutout, in his 173rd major league start, the fourth longest drought for a pitcher in major league history.
That, arguably, could be the best-pitched game weve had all year, said manager Ned Yost, whose team has the sixth highest ERA in the majors.
We knew his numbers dont reflect the kind of pitcher that he is, Adam Dunn said. Youre not going to talk to anyone who knows baseball that says he doesnt have good stuff. Hes got great stuff. Usually it seems like youre going to get a pitch or two to hit, and tonight when we did, we didnt do anything with them.
So how did Guthrie celebrate after his eight scoreless innings? This little soak in the tub.
I wonder if Alexei Ramirez threw a party of his own. Hes 1-for-22 in his career against Guthrie. Hes also 1-for-22 against Chen. Who cant wait to see former Sox pitcher Brandon McCarthy pitch against them on Friday? Ramirez.
The Royals took two-of-three from the White Sox, who have got to find a way to beat this pesky last-place team. They still have nine more games against them, including next week in Kansas City. It was the first series the White Sox had lost at home since the Cubs won two-of-three at U.S. Cellular Field in the third week of June.
But if we have learned anything about this White Sox team its the word reliever Matt Thornton provided when I asked him what the key to their success has been.
Resiliency.
Theres no give with us. Thats what youve seen with us all year long, Thornton said. Even if we lose three, four, five games in a row, we bounce back, and keep getting back up.
Which has stunned every expert who predictedArmageddonon the South Side, a season with over 90 losses and a last-place finish in the AL Central. Instead, the White Sox have been in first place for 70 days, while the Tigers, who everyone (including me) thought would run away with the division, have been in first for just 24 days.
We better get real cold for them to look good, Thornton said about the experts. They have to make their preseason predictions for everything. They backfire all the time. Being an athlete, I dont really throw too many predictions out there. Were proof that the experts dont always exactly know what theyre talking about all the time.
But Thornton, an avid football fan and one of the White Sox in-house NFL experts, did made this prediction about the upcoming season:
I have the Houston Texans winning the Super Bowl this year...and Im a Lions fan.
Once upon a time, Thornton, a Michigan native, was also a Tigers fan. Somewhere inside ashoe boxor family album likely exists a photo of Matt as a child fitted in Tigers garb from head-to-toe.
But times have obviously changed.
My immediate family now is of course Sox fans," Thornton said. "They have been since the day I got over here, but I do have a lot of friends from high school and college that say, Were pulling for the Tigers, we want you to do well when youre in the game, but we want you guys to lose.
Now with 52 games remaining, the battle lines have been drawn. Its a two-team race between the White Sox and Tigers for the division title.
It has nothing to do with me growing up being a Tigers fan, Thornton said. Its a fact that thats a great team over there. Were proving to be a great team too. Weve been here all year. We have guys having great years, bouncing back from bad years last year, everyone is doing their part to win ballgames. With the mix that we have here, its going to be a fun last month and a half.

Derek Holland not satisfied despite strong outing in White Sox loss

Derek Holland not satisfied despite strong outing in White Sox loss

Derek Holland turned in one of his best starts of the season on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, the White Sox had nothing to show for it after a 5-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Sunday afternoon.

In six innings, Holland allowed four hits, one earned run, and two walks while recording six strikeouts. He was charged with his only run in the seventh, when he allowed a single to Yonder Alonso, who came around to score after Holland had been pulled from the game.

Despite his confidence in the bullpen, which has been one of the White Sox biggest strengths this season, Holland would like to see himself go deeper into the games.

“I should be getting into the 7th and not having 110 pitches,” Holland said. “The bullpen's done a great job of picking us up in the seventh, eighth and ninth. The starters, and really pointing more to myself, we need to...I need to go out there and go longer."

Entering Sunday, three of Holland’s last four starts had been the worst outings of the season – allowing 22 earned runs over those four games. Despite the team’s 5-3 loss, Holland felt his outing was a step in the right direction.

“I felt good about everything out there,” Holland said. “(Omar Narvaez) and I were right on the same page. There were just a couple of things that got away from us. Just one of those things. Defense made the plays for us when they needed to, unfortunately we just didn't come out on top."

Manager Rick Renteria also had high praise for the 30-year-old southpaw, who bounced back from one of his shortest outings of the season.

“I thought Holland, hopefully what's not lost is Holland's outing today was really, really good,” Renteria said. “He kept us in the ballgame. They've got some kids that can swing the bat. They were putting things together. All we were trying to do at the end was minimize any damage they could produce. We weren't able to.”

Tough luck for Tommy Kahnle as White Sox blow lead, get swept by A’s

Tough luck for Tommy Kahnle as White Sox blow lead, get swept by A’s

Tommy Kahnle has been one of the White Sox brightest bright spots, but fell victim to some tough luck that could ding on his under-the-radar All-Star bid.

Kahnle allowed the tying and go-ahead runs in the White Sox 5-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics Sunday in front of 28,089 at Guaranteed Rate Field, marking only the sixth time in 31 games the 27-year-old right-hander has allowed a run in 2017.

In the eighth inning, Kahnle allowed a broken bat single to Franklin Barreto, then Ryon Healy reached on a Todd Frazier error. Khris Davis tied the game with a single to left, knocking Kahnle out of the game, and Oakland took the lead when Yonder Alonso blooped a single off David Robertson that plopped into left field out of the reach of Melky Cabrera. Consider the hit probabilities, according to Statcast, of those three hits and the error:

Barreto: 78 percent
Healy: 5 percent
Davis: 62 percent
Alonso: 2 percent

That Kahnle coughed up the lead was surprising given his stealthy success leading a strong back end of the White Sox bullpen this year. The White Sox, prior to Sunday's defeat, were 28-0 when leading after seven innings. 

"Our bullpen's doing a great (job), it really is," manager Rick Renteria said. "I think you can't take away from what they've been doing for us all year long. We've been going to them a lot."

On that improbable Alonso bloop single, Cabrera was shifted more toward center field. 

"He was actually playing a little more to the pull side than he was to the line," Renteria said. "I don't think he was going to be able to get to it, regardless of the effort he might have given us. These guys are all a little fatigued, they're a little tired right now. They're giving you what they've got right now."

Entering Sunday’s game, Kahnle’s 1.2 WAR was sixth-best American League relievers, behind Boston’s Craig Kimbrel (2.2), Houston’s Chris Devenski (1.6), Cleveland’s Andrew Miller (1.6), Los Angeles’ Blake Parker (1.4) and Toronto’s Roberto Osuna (1.3). His 44.8 strikeout percentage is among the five best in baseball along with Kimbrel, New York’s Dellin Betances, Los Angeles’ Kenley Jansen and Milwaukee’s Corey Knebel.

Kahnle has been undoubtedly spectacular this year even with Sunday’s hiccup, though with Garcia seeming likely to be on the American League All-Star roster, Terry Francona wouldn’t have to take him to fill the game’s requirement. That this year’s All-Star Game doesn’t count — it’s the first since 2002 that won’t dictate home-field advantage in the World Series — could alter Francona’s roster construction to reward more starters and closers, and the Cleveland Indians manager would certainly be justified if he wanted to take his own setup guy in Miller.

The White Sox handed Kahnle the lead on Adam Engel’s first career home run (a solo shot in the third) and Jose Abreu’s dash home on a passed ball in the fourth. Starter Derek Holland was solid, allowing one run on four hits with two walks and six strikeouts over six innings. Melky Cabrera added a solo home run in the ninth inning, his eighth of the season.

Adam Rosales and Matt Joyce homered off Robertson and Chris Beck, respectively, in the ninth inning to give the A’s a comfortable ending to their three-game sweep of the White Sox. Beck was hit by a comebacker after allowing that home run and left the game with a bruised left hamstring, and is considered day-to-day.