There might be no more feared two words in the White Sox lexicon than Jeremy Guthrie.
Yes, the Royals hurler did it again Friday night, topping the South Siders for the sixth time in 12 starts since a midseason trade in 2012 sent him to Kansas City. Overall, the Crowns are 10-2 in the games he’s started against the Sox.
Guthrie has had spectacular starts against the Sox, going seven innings five different times and allowing two runs or fewer six different times. Friday was not one of those spectacular outings. He lasted just 5 2/3 innings, walked four and had runners on base in every inning except one. He was able to get out of trouble and got some help from his offense — which scored five times in the first inning — and a free-swinging bunch of Sox that struck out a combined 12 times on the evening.
The second inning, in particular, spelled trouble for Guthrie. He gave up back-to-back singles to lead things off before walking Alejandro De Aza to load the bases. After striking out Tyler Flowers, he walked Adam Eaton to force in a run. But he got a strikeout and a fly out to end the threat with just one run allowed. It was the Sox second run of the game, and it would be all they’d get.
“I didn’t come out aggressive enough, a couple of walks to load the bases in the second. I was very fortunate to get out of the first two innings with just the couple of runs and then was able to settle in a little bit better down the stretch,” Guthrie said.
“He just really battled his command,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He was at 74 pitches after three (innings), and I’m like, ‘If you can just get us through five with the lead, that’s going to be a heck of a job.’ And he ended up throwing 14 pitches in the fourth inning, six pitches in the fifth, got two outs in the sixth. That coupled with the nine strikeouts, it was a tremendous game.”
Still, even with a less-than-ideal performance, the Sox still had no answer.
“He was effectively wild I would say,” Sox center fielder Adam Eaton said. “It seemed like he was throwing harder tonight. I don’t know if he was throwing 95 or 96, but it seemed like he was throwing harder. A nice hard changeup he was throwing to a lot of guys. But I feel like when he’s not on his best, we need to have a better showing.”
Guthrie said there’s not much more to his domination of the Sox than his regular preparation, knowing what to throw and where. It’s a simple answer to a riddle ever-growing in confusion.
“Just try to prepare and do the best I can to execute,” he said. “They’ve got a ton of guys that’ll hurt you if you don’t put the pitches in the good areas. Unfortunately, the result of that today was four walks and trying to be too careful at times. But I was able to come back and get the next hitter for the most part.”
Adding to the mystery surrounding Guthrie’s great numbers vs. the South Siders is his mere mortality against seemingly every other team. Entering Friday, Guthrie had gone 11 straight starts without a win. He came in with a 2-6 record and a 4.10 ERA. In 2013, he was 15-12 with a 4.04 ERA.
There had been better performances during Guthrie’s winless streak than the pedestrian outing on Friday, but it was that pedestrian outing that ended in his first “W” since April 9. In an explanation that could also explain how he repeatedly shuts down the Sox, that’s baseball.
“Baseball is obviously a very funny game,” Guthrie said. “There’s a lot we can control as pitchers, a lot we can do to keep the momentum on our side. And there’s other games where we’re really — despite what we may do, the win-loss isn’t always dependent upon the pitcher’s effort. So this is a very ironic way to pick up a win after a long stretch, to not pitcher very well, to not pitch too deep into the game but do enough to help the team win.”