White Sox-Royals Preview
The Chicago White Sox took command of the AL Central by winning a makeup game over their closest challenger in their final meeting of the season.
They know the race is far from over, however, especially with a series looming against a team that regularly gives them trouble.
The White Sox hope to carry some momentum from an emotional win to Tuesday night's opener against a Kansas City Royals team that has won seven of the last eight matchups.
Monday's makeup from last Thursday's rainout with Detroit had huge playoff implications, as the Tigers could have pulled within one game of the White Sox (80-66) with a win. Chicago was down 4-3 in the bottom of the fifth, but Alex Rios' hard slide to break up a double play caused Omar Infante to throw wildly, allowing the tying and go-ahead runs to score in a 5-4 victory.
The win moved the White Sox three ahead of the Tigers with 16 games remaining.
"There is still a lot of time left for both teams. ... We just got to continue to grind and hope that what we do every day, day in and day out, is enough,'' second baseman Gordon Beckham said. "This is probably still going to go down to the wire.''
Based on the way things have gone against the Royals (66-80), it's entirely possible Chicago's lead could disappear by the time it leaves Kansas City on Thursday.
Since Aug. 7, the White Sox are 1-7 versus Kansas City, and have lost all three games at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals, who lost 4-3 to the Angels on Sunday, are 14-16 against everyone else over that stretch.
The White Sox have been able to take Royals pitchers deep in the last eight meetings, combining for 10 homers, but have only had four runners on base on those hits. They've totaled 22 runs - 2.8 per game.
Chicago has hit one homer in 12 innings against Luke Hochevar (8-13, 5.46 ERA), who has given the White Sox trouble despite his overall struggles.
Hochevar has the majors' third-highest ERA and owns a 9.00 ERA in his last four starts. Despite giving up five runs in five innings against Minnesota on Wednesday, he earned his first win since July 31 in the 10-5 final.
"He (hadn't) won a game in his last seven starts and I wanted to get him over that hump," manager Ned Yost told the Royals' official website. "Sometimes, you've got to let 'em work through some things."
Although it's been a struggle for the right-hander, he is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his two starts against the White Sox this season. He has done a good job of keeping many of Chicago's top hitters in check, as Paul Konerko is batting .222 with two homers in 27 career at-bats, Rios .190 in 21 at-bats and A.J. Pierzynski .105 in 19.
The White Sox counter with Gavin Floyd (9-10, 4.59), who allowed three runs and four hits with seven strikeouts in 4 2-3 innings of Wednesday's 8-6 loss to the Tigers. That was his first outing since Aug. 26, after a stint on the disabled list with a right elbow strain.
One of Floyd's best outings of the season came in his lone start against the Royals on May 11, when he allowed five hits in 7 2-3 innings of a 5-0 home win.
He hasn't enjoyed as much success pitching at Kauffman, going 1-4 with a 6.38 ERA in seven starts there.
Kansas City's Billy Butler is batting .316 with three homers and 10 RBIs against Chicago this year, but is 1 for 10 against Floyd since the start of last season.