Royals holding onto playoff hopes heading into Chicago

BY foxsports • September 8, 2016

CHICAGO -- The Kansas City Royals will try to preserve their slim hopes for the postseason when they open a three-game series against the host Chicago White Sox on Friday night.

The defending World Series champion Royals (72-67) have lost five of their past eight contests and trail the Baltimore Orioles by four games for the American League's second wild-card spot. Three other contenders -- the Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros and New York Yankees -- are ahead of the Royals in the wild-card pursuit.

A matchup against the underwhelming White Sox (67-72) could help Kansas City gain ground in the standings. The Royals are 9-3 against Chicago this season after winning 12 of 19 games against the South Siders in 2015.

Right-hander Yordano Ventura (10-9, 4.22 ERA) will start the series opener for the Royals. The hard-throwing, hot-tempered 25-year-old started the season poorly but has proved to be much better in recent weeks. In his previous six starts, he is 4-0 with a 2.23 ERA.

Ventura ignited a bench-clearing incident with the White Sox last season after he exchanged words with outfielder Adam Eaton. However, he showed no signs of losing his composure in his most recent meeting against Chicago on June 12 as he struck out a season-high 10 batters in seven innings to earn the victory. He is 3-3 with a 4.33 ERA in nine career starts against the White Sox.

Opposing Ventura will be White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon (6-8, 3.90 ERA), who also has been on a hot streak. The 23-year-old is 4-0 with a 1.91 ERA in his past six outings. He has walked eight and struck out 31 in that span.

Rodon has fared well against Kansas City during his brief career. In three starts, he is 1-1 with a 2.55 ERA.

Kansas City hopes to have one of its best players back in the lineup to face the White Sox. Catcher Salvador Perez could return after missing a game because of a bruised right wrist. Perez was hit by a fastball Tuesday and sat out Wednesday's series finale against the Minnesota Twins.

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The four-time All-Star is hitting .254 with 20 home runs and 59 RBIs in 122 games this season.

"I'm hoping that he's ready to play," Royals manager Ned Yost told the Kansas City Star before the team traveled to Chicago. "Most of the time, you get hit by a pitch and it hurts. But if you get that ball-on-bone sound -- that crunching sound -- it's not a good sound."

For the White Sox, first baseman Jose Abreu will look to continue his torrid hitting. The Cuban slugger is hitting .447 (17-for-38) with five home runs and 15 RBIs during his past eight games. He has boosted his season totals to a .298 average with 23 home runs and 88 RBIs in 136 games.

"I've been having some ups and downs during this season," Abreu said. "I think everybody knows that. But I think fighting through all those stretches (has helped). ... Right now, I'm having my best moment in this whole season, and that's part of all my work and all the advice that I've been getting from different people, especially from the hitting coach.

"This is a long season. No matter what, how good or bad your first half was, you still have the second half to do better. That's what I've been trying to do."

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