But the Royals managed to get to the Cy Young candidate in a big way for a big win, slicing the Detroit Tigers lead to a half game in the AL Central.
How did they manage to do that?
Left-handed hitters were 17-for-115 against Sale this season, but that was of little consequence to red-hot Norichika Aoki.
The Elias Sports Bureau noted that Aoki set the Royals' record for most hits in a three-game series with 11, one better than the previous mark shared by Royals legends George Brett and Willie Wilson.
What was surprising about this game was that Sale didn’t go after Aoki with his slider. Only one of the eight pitches Aoki saw from him was one. Aoki has seen 70 sliders from lefties this season. They’ve resulted in him making 16 outs without recording a hit.
Cain can do
Lorenzo Cain has 17 career home runs. The only pitcher against whom he has more than one is Sale, against whom he hit a three-run shot on Wednesday night.
Cain had three more hits on Wednesday, giving him 12 in 32 at-bats (a .375 batting average) in his past eight games.
Ventura sharp again
Rookie starter Yordano Ventura was sharp again, allowing only one run and three hits in seven innings.
This was Ventura’s 10th straight quality start (six innings or more, three earned runs or fewer), the longest streak by a Royals starter since Kevin Appier had an 11-game streak in 1993.
Ventura averaged 98 mph on the 74 fastballs he threw on Wednesday, the third time this season (and second this month) that his heater has averaged 98 in a game.
That set up his curveball (which averaged 83 mph) and changeup (which averaged 88) as his putaway pitch, against which White Sox hitters were 0-for-8 with six strikeouts (and one walk).
The six offspeed strikeouts tied for his second-most in a game this season, trailing only the nine he had versus the San Diego Padres on May 5.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Lorenzo Cain hit a three-run homer, Nori Aoki kept up his tear at the plate and the Kansas City Royals roughed up Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale in a 6-2 victory Wednesday night that kept the pressure on Detroit in the AL Central.
The first-place Tigers led the Royals by 1 1/2 games at the start of the night.
Alcides Escobar also homered for a Royals offense that had been scuffling for weeks, and Aoki went 3 for 4 to finish with 11 hits in the series. Yordano Ventura (13-10) allowed three hits and two walks over seven innings, the lone run off him coming on a sacrifice fly.
Meanwhile, Sale (12-4) was cuffed for a season-high five earned runs on nine hits over five innings. It was arguably the three-time All-Star's worst start since Aug. 23, 2013, when he gave up eight runs over seven innings in a loss to the Rangers.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis both gave up runs for the first time in nearly three months as the Kansas City Royals' dominant bullpen was touched up Tuesday night in a 7-5 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
Davis replaced Herrera with two on in the seventh inning and walked Jose Abreu to load the bases for Conor Gillaspie, who cleared them with a triple to right-center on a 2-2 pitch to give Chicago a 7-5 lead.
That ended Herrera's scoreless streak at 30 2/3 innings, dating to June 24. Also snapped was Davis' shutout streak of 31 2/3 innings, a club record for a reliever, with the first run charged to him since June 25.
The rare bullpen failure prevented Kansas City from gaining ground on AL Central leader Detroit, which lost at Minnesota. The Royals remained 1 1/2 games behind the Tigers, but still lead Seattle for the second wild-card spot.
The Kansas City Royals did that and then some in coming from three runs down to beat the Chicago White Sox on Monday night.
It was an epic comeback, one that will be circled to be remembered should the Royals make the postseason.
Run, run, run
The Royals tied the game on a play in which Jarrod Dyson stole third, then scampered home on Jake Petricka’s wild pitch. They won it when Terrance Gore went from second to home on an infield hit by Lorenzo Cain, whose second career walk-off hit was his first since the 2010 season.
Talk from baseball fans on Twitter was that this was a very Royals kind of win. What did they mean by that?
The Royals rank second in the “Ultimate Baserunning” stat (UBR) tracked by Fangraphs.com, trailing only the Washington Nationals. This stat combines elements of baserunning; its components include base-stealing efficiency, the success rate taking extra bases on hits and outs, and the avoidance of baserunning mistakes.
With that in mind, it’s worth noting that:
• Dyson improved to 21-of-24 on steal attempts of third base for his career. He atoned for getting caught stealing by Joe Nathan in a key moment in a game against the Tigers last week.
• Gore was someone brought up from the minors for situations just like this one. He’d stolen 47 bases in 54 attempts in his time in the minor leagues this season. His first steal on Sept. 3 led to a run when he scored on a throwing error.
Moustakas beats the shift
The comeback was set up by Mike Moustakas’ one-out opposite-field double in the ninth inning. Moustakas has struggled for much of the season against shifted defenses but has shown more of a willingness to hit the ball the other way lately.
In Moustakas’ first 350 at-bats, he had only nine opposite-field hits. He has had eight in 69 at-bats since Aug. 24.
Aoki’s four-hit day
Norichika Aoki kept things going for the Royals with his fourth hit of the game after the tying run had scored.
Aoki’s offensive contributions have been minimal this season, but he’s now hitting .333 (21-for-63) in his past 17 games.
And let’s not forget the bullpen
Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis each pitched a scoreless inning in relief of James Shields.
Davis has now thrown 31 2/3 straight innings without allowing an earned run. Herrera has a similar streak, only one inning behind him.
The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Davis and Herrera have the third- and fourth-longest streaks in the majors this season, trailing a 41-inning streak by Clayton Kershaw and a 32 1/3 innings streak by Boston Red Sox reliever Burke Badenhop.
After Nori Aoki, who had four hits, doubled with two outs, Gore ran for him and scored from second on Lorenzo Cain's infield single.
Wade Davis (9-2) worked a scoreless ninth to pick up the victory, extending his scoreless streak to 31 2/3 innings.
White Sox starter John Danks pitched six scoreless innings and allowed just two singles, both by Aoki, before departing after 103 pitches. He struck out six and walked four.
The Royals scored all their runs off three White Sox relievers.
Starting pitching: Scott Carroll and Hector Noesi might have ended the starting staff's run of consecutive quality starts at eight, but the current run from the rotation continues to be impressive. Even with the five earned runs Noesi gave up Sunday, White Sox starters still have a 2.81 ERA over the last 10 games since Sept. 5, and eight of those outings have been quality.
Jake Petricka, RP: Not only did the right-hander pick up his first victory of the season in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader, he has delivered six consecutive scoreless innings over his last six appearances. He has converted five consecutive save opportunities since Aug. 17 and he has a 1.65 ERA in his 16 save opportunities this season. Oh, and he also welcomed the birth of his daughter last week.
Paul Konerko, DH/1B: This was supposed to be a month-long celebration of Konerko's career, but a fracture of a small bone in his left hand has put that on hold. Konerko will try to give the hand a go on the upcoming nine-game road trip with the idea that he could be in sync offensively by the time returns for the final home series of the season, Sept. 25-28 against the Kansas City Royals.
Adam Eaton, CF: There haven't been too many dry spells from the high-energy leadoff man, but the just-concluded homestand wasn't his best. Eaton went 4-for-23 (.174) in the games against the A's and Twins. In September, Eaton is 6-for-42 (.143) after going 48-for-113 (.425) over his previous 29 games.
The final road trip of the season, which starts Monday night, includes games against the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers, both of whom are battling for the American League Central title. Heading into play Monday night, the Royals trail the Tigers in the division by 1 1/2 games.
The White Sox will see the Royals first for the final three games of the season at Kansas City. From there it's three games at Tampa Bay against the Rays, who no longer are a playoff threat, and then it's the final road series next week at Detroit. The season ends with four games at home, Sept. 25-28, against the Royals.
The Royals haven't made the playoff since 1985 and their 28-year drought is the longest in baseball. In losing three of four games against the disappointing Boston Red Sox this past weekend, the Royals appear to be cracking under the pressure of the huge opportunity in front of them.
The White Sox, meanwhile, played well on their just concluded seven-game homestand, winning five of those games. They won three of four games against the playoff-contending Oakland Athletics and swept a doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins on Saturday.
The White Sox have won just four times in 12 tries against the Royals this season and have been outscored 59-39. Against the AL Central, the White Sox have lost five of their last seven games and are 13-19 on the road.
HEAD TO HEAD
Royals starter James Shields is 1-1 against the White Sox this season in three starts, with a 2.25 ERA over 20 innings. ... Royals starter Yordano Ventura, who has delivered an impressive rookie season, has his problems against the White Sox, facing them once this year and once late last season, giving up four home runs while posting a 7.20 ERA over 10 innings. ... Players on the Royals' 40-man roster have 175 at-bats against White Sox starter John Danks and have only hit two home runs, while batting .223. ... The White Sox's Chris Bassitt will make his fourth career appearance and third start Tuesday against the Royals, who he has never faced. ... White Sox starter Chris Sale has an impressive 2.36 ERA in 99 career innings against the Royals but is just 7-7 against them.
The White Sox are 30-36 against American League Central teams this season, with 10 more games remaining. ... Jose Abreu tied Ron Kittle's White Sox rookie record of 35 home runs with a blast on Sunday, one day after matching Kittle's mark of 100 RBIs in his rookie season if 1983. ... The White Sox have lost six of their last seven games against the Royals, but are 9-4 over their last 13 games at Kauffman Stadium. ... The White Sox are just 1-8 over their last nine road games. ... Danks, who will start for the White Sox on Monday night, is 6-0 with a 2.58 ERA over 14 career starts, 11 quality, against the Royals. ... Paul Konerko needs one home run to tie Jason Giambi (440) for 41st place on the all-time list, while Alexei Ramirez needs one home run for 100 in his career.
PITCHING MATCHUPSMonday: White Sox LH John Danks (9-11, 5.05 ERA) vs. Royals RH James Shields (14-7, 3.13), 7:10 p.m. CST
Tuesday: White Sox RH Chris Bassitt (0-1, 4.73) vs. TBA, 7:10 p.m. CST
Wednesday: White Sox LH Chris Sale (12-3, 1.99) vs. Royals RH Yordano Ventura (12-9, 3.25), 7:10 p.m. CST
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Boston slugger David Ortiz left the ballpark early due to what Red Sox manager John Farrell called a family emergency.
"He got called away from this game," Farrell said. "There was a family emergency that he had to attend to and he jumped on a flight late this afternoon. He should catch up with us in Pittsburgh."
The loss continued the Royals' slide. When asked if his club could afford to lose three of four to a last-place club, Kansas City manager Ned Yost succinctly replied, "No, no, no."
Yost also abruptly ended his postgame media session with that answer.
The Royals, who blew a four-game lead, fell 1½ games behind Detroit, which beat Cleveland, in the AL Central. Kansas City is in the thick of the wild-card race.
Nava hit Crow's next pitch into the Red Sox bullpen for his second career grand slam and a 7-4 lead.
"Do I think this is going to cause us to fade? No," Vargas said. "But we need to play better ball, that's for sure, because we're running out of games."
CHICAGO -- Ron Kittle's magic rookie season of 1983 now has an equal, at least when it comes to power and run production, and Jose Abreu still has two weeks worth of games remaining to raise the bar even further.
Abreu tied Kittle’s Chicago White Sox rookie record of 35 home runs with a ninth-inning blast that closed the margin slightly in an eventual 6-4 defeat to the Minnesota Twins. On Saturday he matched Kittle’s 100 RBIs from that same ’83 year.
Abreu's strength had appeared to diminish over the last month and a half, but his home run Sunday gave him long balls in back-to-back games for the first time since early June.
“He's a good hitter so this isn't a surprise that he hit a home run,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He's been pretty consistent just as a hitter. The power's going to be there. He went through a little stretch where he wasn't hitting many home runs, but it's there.
“That's part of him learning to go through a full season. I didn’t see it, as when he went through it he wasn't going to come back. Right now, he's as good as anybody in the league.”
CHICAGO -- Rookie Trevor May struck out a season-high 10 in six innings and the Minnesota Twins overcame Jose Abreu's 35th home run, beating the Chicago White Sox 6-4 Sunday to end a four-game losing streak.
May (3-4) was staked to an early 4-0 lead, then hung on to win his third straight start. The 6-foot-5 right-hander walked none while allowing three runs and five hits in his seventh start and longest outing so far.
Glen Perkins pitched the ninth for his 34th save in 40 chances, despite giving up Abreu's homer.
Abreu singled and drove in two runs, giving the rookie 102 RBIs. Adrian Nieto also homered for the White Sox.
Hector Noesi (8-10) allowed five runs on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings.
How it happened: White Sox starter Hector Noesi gave up two second-inning runs and the Twins were off and running. Noesi finished by allowing five runs on eight hits over 6 2/3 innings. Jose Abreu and Conor Gillaspie had RBI singles for the White Sox, while Adrian Nieto hit his second home run. Abreu then hit a solo home run in the ninth inning, his 35th, giving him a home run in back-to-back games after not hitting one before that since Aug. 22. The 35 home runs tied Ron Kittle's White Sox rookie record set in 1983.
What it means: Despite the defeat, it was a successful homestand as the White Sox won five of the seven games, including three of four against the playoff-contending Oakland Athletics. Now come more contenders as the White Sox first travel to Kansas City for a three-game series that starts Monday. The Royals and Detroit Tigers are battling down the stretch for the American League Central title and the White Sox could have a say in how the division finishes with three games against Detroit before the season ends and seven against Kansas City.
Outside the box: The defeat officially ended the White Sox’s chances of winning the AL Central and also of earning the first wild card spot. They have an elimination number of one when it comes to the second wild card spot.
Off beat: it’s easy to bash Dayan Viciedo's defense and many have this season. To his credit, he made a nice sliding catch on the left-field foul line in the seventh inning. Viciedo’s start in left field came a day after he started at first base in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader. The White Sox could be interested in tapping into any defensive versatility he could offer next season, especially if they go a different route in left field, but still want to keep his bat in the lineup as much as possible. Abreu still figures to get the most time at first base.
Up next: The White Sox will send left-hander John Danks (9-11, 5.05 ERA) to the mound Monday at Kansas City in the opener of a three-game series. The Royals will counter with right-hander James Shields (14-7, 3.13) in the 7:10 p.m. CST start from Kauffman Stadium.
The final image from a long day-turned-night was of Dayan Viciedo's game-ending home run that completed a Chicago White Sox sweep over the Minnesota Twins, but there is no way to overlook the strikeout totals.
The combined 45 strikeouts in the two games tied a major league record for a doubleheader when both games lasted nine innings. The Colorado Rockies and then Florida Marlins did the same in 2009. In 2010, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees combined for a record 49 strikeouts in a doubleheader, but both of those games went 10 innings.
The Twins weren’t about to complain, especially since Konerko’s 50 home runs against the Twins are his most against any one team.
All that production, though, didn’t stop Twins manager Ron Gardenhire from complimenting the productive career of the White Sox slugger, who will retire once the season ends later this month.
“I’ve had the unpleasant experience of watching him round the bases a few too many times on us, but you know, he’s just that professional guy that’s handled himself on and off the field as well as anybody,” Gardenhire said Sunday. “Clutch hitter, always big in those big situations for you, and a guy that you hated to see come up from our side in RBI situations, because he was the man. He wasn’t going to miss.”
Unable to play over the last week and a half because of an injured left hand, Konerko is starting to realize how fast the end of his career is approaching. After Sunday, there will only be four more home games remaining in his career, Sept 25-28 against the Kansas City Royals.
“You’re definitely aware of what's going on; you're not going to be able to stop the clock,” Konerko said. “It's going to move. It's going to get here. I'm trying to find that balance in between. This time of year, everybody in here, you're kind of leaning toward, 'Let's get this over with.' It's human to have those thoughts. There's some of that but you also, ‘Not so fast, this is kind of the last time.’”
Konerko wasn’t exactly a perfect fit on a roster that also started the season with Jose Abreu and Adam Dunn on it. But everybody associated with the White Sox was more than appreciative of his presence this year.
Missing time of late hasn’t been ideal, but Konerko has managed to make the best of it.
“There's a lot of stuff I don't know if I wouldn't have done if I had been out there,” Konerko said. “I don't think I could have done both had I been playing the role I'm playing in. There's a lot of coordination going on. So I guess that's one of the bright spots, is a lot of stuff got hammered out, so I think when I leave here today and then come back, it's all done. It's all in motion.
“Those last four days I should be able to treat pretty normal as far as the day, so I'm looking forward to that I guess. We'll see. I've said it all year, this is the first time and last time I'll ever do this, so I don't know what to expect on all that stuff, I don't know where my thoughts will be, what it will look like, any of that stuff. I'm just blowing in the wind here.”
After taking about 30-40 swings Saturday, Konerko’s goal is to play at some point in the three games at Kansas City that begin Monday. Barring that, he is certain he could appear in next weekend’s series at Tampa Bay.
“I'm in a pretty good spot; I took some swings off the tee, some soft toss,” said Konerko, who suffered the injury during a game at Minnesota earlier this month. “I definitely could feel it in there. It's a little sore today but it's soreness that I know. It's not that I went backward. It was expected. So I think now, for me, I have no worries that I'm going to get back out there this week.”
With no setbacks, he is expected to play in the final White Sox series of the season Sept. 25-28 against the Royals at U.S. Cellular Field. The White Sox are planning to celebrate the veteran’s career on Paul Konerko Night, Sept. 27.
“Going on the road, I'll have plenty of time to sit and talk about it, figure out when he's available and when it feels right for him to go back out there,” manager Robin Ventura said. “It all depends on how he's feeling.”
CHICAGO -- Jose Abreu is not waiting to apply what he has learned about preserving himself for a long 162-game season.
Seemingly drained of power late in his first year in the major leagues, Abreu used a long work day Saturday to flash the kind of overall game that the Chicago White Sox hope will define his career.
After 18 games without a home run (69 at-bats), Abreu not only hit one in a 7-6 victory over the Minnesota Twins in Game 2 of Saturday's doubleheader, but he launched it to the right side of center field. It was his 34th home run of the year and gave him 100 RBIs, making him the fourth White Sox rookie ever to hit that milestone.
That the blast came in the second game of a doubleheader that ended with a White Sox sweep seemed to go a long way toward dispelling the exhaustion notion.
But this wasn’t just about Abreu showing that he does have a little left in the tank. The home run might have actually been his second-best at-bat of the game to his ninth-inning, 14-pitch walk that was key to the comeback victory, which was capped when Dayan Viciedo hit a game-ending two-run home run two batters later.
Abreu also had a single in the second game after delivering two doubles in the first.
“For him, just the bat speed, everything else, it's there,” said White Sox manager Robin Ventura, who has been peppered with questions this month about what appeared to be a tired Abreu. “Everybody's going through little issues of fatigue. It's a long season, but in the end you know he's the guy you want to put your buck on just because he's the guy. He continues to have great at-bats, learning how to do it, but he's also shown guys how to do it, which is great. He's a leader, that's what he is.”
Abreu’s English still is limited (he intends to work on it during the offseason), but his ninth-inning walk spoke volumes without needing any words. At one point during the plate appearance he fouled off eight consecutive pitches against Twins closer Glen Perkins before earning the walk.
The Twins had just gone up by a run in the top of the ninth, and Abreu’s never-say-die walk made him the potential tying run. Two batters later, Viciedo cracked his winner on a full count over the wall in left field to cap the sweep.
“First of all, I’m just thankful that we are able to do what we’re doing and be able to win the game,” Abreu said. “That at-bat it was a difficult at-bat, but I went into the at-bat thinking to myself that I would do whatever I could to get on base and help tie the game. I just tried to work as much as I could to get the right pitch.”
A willingness to keep the line moving is what sets Abreu apart in muscle-flexing world of power hitting. Abreu’s ego didn’t tell him he needed to be the hero and tie the game with one swing; rather, his baseball acumen told him that baserunners lead to runs scored and potential game-winning rallies.
“I think it was a great at-bat,” said Viciedo, who was waiting to come to the on-deck circle when Abreu was at the plate. “The way he just settled in and just waited for his pitches and he fought, that was the fundamental thing to get on base and do whatever we can to tie the game or win the game. That was a great at-bat, going pitch for pitch and settling in.”
Viciedo’s reaction to his teammate's walk is evidence of Ventura’s proclamation that what Abreu was displaying Saturday was leadership above all else.
“Just the at-bat Jose had in the last inning, I think that's indicative of who he is and what he brings to the table,” Ventura said. “It was a great at-bat leading off an inning against a great closer that he just keeps wearing him out to where he gets a walk. Those are the kinds of things you need to do to win games. He's that type of player and it sets the tone for that inning.”
And to think, Abreu had waited nearly two weeks for his milestone 100th RBI, and when it came it was actually overshadowed by a base on balls.
The only other White Sox rookies to record at least 100 RBIs were Smead Jolley (114 in 1930), Zeke Bonura (110 in 1934) and Ron Kittle (100 in 1983). Abreu also became the fourth rookie in major league history to record at least 30 doubles, 30 home runs and 100 RBIs, joining Hal Trosky (1934), Ted Williams (1939) and Albert Pujols (2001).
“The thing I’m most thankful for is this organization for the opportunity to play this game at this level,” the 27-year-old Abreu said. “I’m happy about 100 RBIs, I’m happy about 34 home runs. I’m just happy how I’ve been able to do this this season. I’m happy my family is here with me. I’m happy for my success.”