White Sox take aim at sweep of Royals (Mar 31, 2018)
Chicago (2-0) has scored 18 runs in its first two contests behind a rejuvenated lineup that includes Matt Davidson, Yoan Moncada, Avisail Garcia, Tim Anderson and other talented 20-somethings. But it was 30-year-old catcher Welington Castillo who delivered the team's latest victory with a go-ahead double in the eighth inning Saturday night.
The comeback made the White Sox the only undefeated team in the American League entering Sunday.
Kansas City (0-2) will try to salvage a win less than 24 hours after a bullpen meltdown led to its second defeat. The Royals went 43-38 at home last season and are looking to bounce back despite the defections of veteran leaders such as Eric Hosmer to the San Diego Padres and Lorenzo Cain to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Royals right-hander Jason Hammel will get the ball in the series finale as he begins his second season with the club. The 35-year-old is hoping for better results this season after going 8-13 with a 5.29 ERA in 32 starts in 2017.
In 12 career appearances (seven starts) against the White Sox, Hammel is 2-4 with a 5.32 ERA. He struggled badly against Chicago in 2017, losing both of his starts and giving up 12 earned runs in 6 1/3 innings (16.20 ERA).
The White Sox will counter with right-hander Reynaldo Lopez, a hard-throwing 24-year-old who impressed coaches after his midseason promotion last year. Lopez finished 3-3 with a 4.72 ERA in eight starts.
This season, Lopez has set lofty goals for himself. He told The Athletic that he wants to pitch 200-plus innings and register 200-plus strikeouts. He knows the goals are difficult but attainable after only 91 2/3 innings in the majors.
"I think the key to accomplish those goals is to keep the focus the whole game, during the time you are on the mound," Lopez said to The Athletic's James Fegan during spring training. "Because that's the only way you can probably pitch seven or eight innings. During the game, there are going to be too many things around you that you cannot control, and you cannot lose focus in those situations.
"That's the big key, because if you keep your focus, you can go longer into the games. In that same way, if you pitch seven or eight innings, at the end of the season you're going to get more innings than you used to have."
Lopez is undefeated against the Royals. In three career starts, he is 2-0 with a 3.44 ERA in 18 1/3 innings.
Davidson will look to stay hot at the plate after driving in six runs in his first two games. He notched 68 RBIs last season but was limited to 118 games because of injuries.
Meanwhile, the Royals will try to refocus after going 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position Saturday night. Kansas City has stranded 13 runners in the first two games.