Royals visit White Sox with slim playoff hopes in tow
CHICAGO — The Kansas City Royals will try to preserve their slim hopes for a wild-card playoff berth when they open a three-game road series against the Chicago White Sox on Friday night.
Kansas City (75-77) is 3 1/2 games behind the Minnesota Twins with 10 games remaining in the race for the American League’s second wild-card spot. The Royals will aim for their third consecutive victory after posting back-to-back wins over the Toronto Blue Jays, 15-5 and 1-0.
An up-and-down season coupled with a tight playoff race has the Royals in a strange position. They are trying to secure their third playoff appearance in the past four years while simultaneously trying to avoid their first sub-.500 season since 2012.
“The goal for everybody is just to keep pressing forward and keep playing good baseball,” Royals left-hander Jason Vargas told the Kansas City Star. “That’s all we can control.”
Meanwhile, Chicago (61-91) is looking to close out its final homestand of the season on an upbeat note. The rebuilding White Sox are coming off a 3-1 victory over the Houston Astros, but Chicago has dropped three of four contests.
Right-hander Jason Hammel (8-12, 5.05 ERA) is scheduled to make his team-high 31st start for Kansas City. The 35-year-old has given up 24 home runs, which is one shy of his career high. He will try to bounce back after allowing 11 earned runs on 21 hits in his past two starts covering 9 1/3 innings.
In 11 career games (six starts) against the White Sox, Hammel is 2-3 with a 4.30 ERA.
The White Sox will counter with right-hander Reynaldo Lopez (2-3, 4.84 ERA), who is slated to make his seventh start of the season. The 23-year-old has walked 12 and struck out 23 in 35 1/3 innings with Chicago.
Lopez will face the Royals for the third time in 2017. He is 1-0 with a 3.75 ERA in his first two appearances against Kansas City.
“He shows a tremendous sense of maturity,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria told the Chicago Tribune. “He’s kind of a fiery guy, even though he’s really quiet. You guys see him on the mound and he’s just quiet, but internally, he has some drive.”
White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson enters the series looking to build upon a career-high, 12-game hitting streak. Anderson, who ripped his 17th home run against the Astros on Thursday night, is hitting .426 with two home runs, three doubles and six RBIs during his streak.
For the Royals, first baseman Eric Hosmer and second baseman Whit Merrifield will try to get back on track after watching their six-game hit streaks fizzle Thursday in the series finale against the Blue Jays.
The series marks Melky Cabrera’s second return visit to Guaranteed Rate Field since the White Sox shipped him to the Royals just before the July 31 trade deadline. In 49 games since joining his new team, Cabrera is hitting .275 with four home runs and 26 RBIs.
The Royals and White Sox have split their first 16 matchups of the season series. Chicago has outscored Kansas City 90-74.