Royals win fifth straight and close in on first-place Detroit
Well, now. After all the fan freakout over the past month, here are the Royals, winners of five straight after a 7-2 win over the Chicago White Sox on Friday night.
The Royals jumped on the Sox for five runs in the first inning.
And now the Royals are just 1 1/2 games behind the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers, whom the Royals will meet four times next week in Detroit.
"This is a good team," designated hitter Billy Butler told FOX Sports Kansas City’s Joel Goldberg after the game. "Everything is coming together right now — all phases are working."
Jeremy Guthrie wobbled immensely but got his first win since April 9, lasting 5 2/3 innings before turning it over to the bullpen, which shut down the Sox the rest of the way.
On the Royals’ FSKC postgame show, Royals skipper Ned Yost had a simple explanation for Guthrie’s night: "Just command. It was probably the worst game he’s pitched during the (11-game winless streak). He had 74 pitches through three innings …. But he came back and pitched tremendous."
The Royals now have gone eight straight games without allowing a home run.
— Aoki takes charge. Coming into the game the Royals were 20-4 when leadoff hitter Nori Aoki scored a run. So it seemed like a good sign when Aoki led off the game with a sharp single to right. Aoki scored two batters later when Eric Hosmer drilled a single to right field. What was interesting was that third-base coach Mike Jirschele held up the stop sign but Aoki ran right through it and scored easily. Aoki knew he had a good jump and knew he would beat it. Aoki also doubled and scored in the second.
— Situational hitting … again. The Royals tied a franchise record with four sacrifice flies Wednesday, and they were back at some terrific situational hitting Friday. After Aoki’s leadoff double in the second, Omar Infante went to the right side and flied out to deep right, advancing Aoki to third. Then, with the infield in, Hosmer went after a high fastball and flied out to center, deep enough to get Aoki home. Terrific job of getting on, getting him over, getting him home.
— Royals bullpen. Right-hander Aaron Crow did a great job coming in for Guthrie with two on and two out in the sixth and the game still somewhat in question. Crow needed just one pitch to get Gordon Beckham to pop up to end the inning and the threat. Left-hander Francisley Beuno came on in the seventh and overmatched the White Sox with a 1-2-3 inning, striking out Adam Dunn to finish it off.
— Guthrie has no command. You would think with a 5-0 lead that Guthrie would have just flooded the zone with strikes. But Guthrie had probably his worst command of the year, at least early on. It was maybe the worst command Guthrie has had since he has been a Royal. Guthrie was all over the place early on, falling behind hitters and unable to find catcher Sal Perez’s mitt. He threw 52 pitches in the first two innings. Obviously, Guthrie, a veteran, knows what to do with a big lead — fire strikes. He was just unable to do it. Guthrie did, however, battle as best he could and actually made it through numerous jams, lasting 5 2/3 innings and striking out a season-high nine batters. Hat tip to Guthrie for fighting through it, but with that big of a lead, the Royals sure could have benefited from Guthrie going deeper into the game.
— Big Sal continues to struggle. What a joy it was to watch the Royals’ first five hitters on Friday as each hitter patiently waited for his pitch, then drilled whatever offering he preferred. Except for Perez. After the first five guys reached — each on solid rips — Perez took two fastballs right down the middle for strikes. Then, as he often does, Perez whiffed on a ball that bounced near the plate. If Perez could have reached, the Royals might have knocked out Jose Quintana in the first inning. Perez, though, let him off the hook. Then in the seventh, Perez came up against right-hander Scott Carroll with runners on second and third and two out and the Royals up 7-2. A hit there and the White Sox would have felt the game was over. Carroll threw his first five pitches to Perez way out of the strike zone — but Perez swung at two of them for a full count. Then Perez popped out to second.
— Esky hurt? The last thing the Royals need is any injury to shortstop Alcides Escobar, who is headed toward a career year. Esky seemed to be favoring his left leg after going for a ground ball in the first inning. He stayed in the game, however, then extended his hitting streak to 11 games in the eighth inning with a double into the left-field corner. Esky seemed to tweak the same leg as he rounded first and hit a rut in the infield dirt. Esky jogged into second but didn’t seem to be in any great discomfort. The Royals took him out of the game immediately, however, as a precaution. He walked off the field under his own power. The Royals indicated Esky was just suffering from a cramp. "Just a cramp in his calf," Yost said. "If he feels any tightness in there tomorrow, we’ll give him a day off."