Having secured their highest win total in 24 years, the Kansas City Royals are likely more optimistic about the future than in any other recent season.
The hard-throwing Yordano Ventura would appear to be a part of that.
The right-hander will seek his first major league win in his third career start Saturday night against the Chicago White Sox.
Kansas City won’t end its 28-year playoff drought but there might be some high hopes for the Royals next season after they reached 85 wins for the first time since 1989.
After a one-run victory in the series opener, Kansas City (85-75) had few problems dispatching the lowly White Sox (62-98) on Friday. Billy Butler hit a two-run double in the first inning on his way to a three-hit night and Emilio Bonifacio also drove in a pair of runs.
“We feel like our organization has made great progress,” manager Ned Yost said. “We got to experience what it was like playing deep into September in a playoff race and it was great experience.”
Ventura will try to help the Royals add to their win total, their highest since going 92-70 in 1989, with another strong outing. The right-hander, who threw a 102-mph pitch in his major league debut Sept. 17, has allowed one run over 5 2/3 innings in each of his first two games.
Ventura (0-0, 1.59 ERA) gave up two hits and struck out six Monday in Seattle but the Royals bullpen blew a lead in a 6-5 win in 12 innings.
“Ventura, man, wow! What an exhibition he put on out there,” Yost told the team’s website.
Kansas City has won six straight in Chicago, posting a 1.11 ERA during that span.
In his fifth major league start, the White Sox’s Erik Johnson (2-2, 2.82) will try to earn a third straight win while helping his club avoid moving to the brink of its first 100-loss season since 1970.
Chicago is already guaranteed its worst finish since going 56-106 during that campaign.
“Nobody wants that,” manager Robin Ventura said of 100 defeats. “Is it going to be the big difference going into next year? Probably not, but nobody wants that.”
The 23-year-old Johnson gave up two runs and walked none over 6 2/3 innings Sunday in a 6-3 victory against AL Central champion Detroit.
“He did a good job going against a tough lineup,” Ventura said. “He stayed out of trouble. That’s great composure for a kid as old as he is.”
Saturday’s game could mark the penultimate one in Chicago for White Sox captain Paul Konerko. The first baseman/designated hitter has played with the team since the beginning of the 1999 season and is five total bases shy of matching Frank Thomas’ franchise record of 3,944.
Chicago general manager Rick Hahn said Friday that he is planning on giving the 37-year-old Konerko, who is eligible for free agency, some time to decide if he wants to retire, return to the team or head elsewhere.