On a 95 degree night, the Chicago White Sox brought the heat right to Kansas City Royals starter Brad Keller, plating five by the third inning to knock him out en route to an eventual, nail-biting win, 9-6.
The Royals closed within 7-6 after scoring two runs in Chicago’s evil incarnate inning, the eighth. But in the bottom of the frame, Omar “Babe” Narváez clocked a two-run shot to center off of Kevin McCarthy that set up a Joakim Soria 1-2-3 save to end it.
By the 339th pitch of the game, Soria’s inside fastball to punch out Lucas Duda, three-and-a-half-hours had passed. The White Sox, who are now 6-2 against K.C. and 26-59 (.306) against the rest of baseball, could stand to play the Royals interminably, as their friends from the south have been the only ray of light on this death march of a rebuilding season.
Keller pitched to contact for all eight outs of his start, to great success — for the White Sox.
Keller also managed to avoid contact, also in Chicago’s favor, with four walks. In fact, leadoff hitter Yoán Moncada, who had walked 31 times in 84 games this season, accomplished his first three-free pass game of his career on Friday — by the third inning. Moncada scored the first of Chicago’s nine runs tonight, setting in motion a lead that would expand to five through six.
Daniel Palka plated Moncada in the first, followed by a Leury García two-bagger that notched two. In the third, the string started similarly, a Palka single and García sac bunt that turned into a delightful surprise single when the ball was placed perfectly down the third-base line. After a Keller wild boy moved the runners up, “Splendid Splinter” Narváez tapped a single to score Palka, and grindy newcomer Ryan LaMarre hit a Minny Twins special, a wormburner that squeezed its way into right field to score García.
Solo shots from Hopalong José Abreu (his 13th on the season) and García (fourth) pushed the lead to 7-2 by the seventh.
James Shields was swell tonight, pitching a one-hitter through 5 1⁄3 and earning his fourth win against 10 losses with a tidy 62 game score, seven Ks against just two walks and five hits. He was yolked with four runs, but only two came earned, as two runs scored in the third inning thanks in part to a Moncada flub of a double-play grounder. His only two earned runs of the game came on his very last pitch before being knocked out with two out in the seventh, a Jorge Bonifacio double.
K.C.’s rally in the eighth got hairy, as Xavier Cedeño started the frame and got touched for a Duda single and Hunter Dozier walk straight away. Alex Gordon moved the runners over with a ground out, and when Yolmer Sánchez mishandled a grounder from Alcides Escobar, Duda danced home. Jeanmar Gómez came on an promptly provided an RBI single for Whit Merrifield, drawing the Royals to within one. But Gómez induced a screamer from Bonifacio out to Charlie Tilson in center field to end the threat.
Kansas City is now 41 games below .500. Danny Duffy, the gift who kept on giving to the White Sox on that glorious Opening Day four months ago, will be charged with keeping that number from flipping to 42. The enigmatic Reynaldo López brings his cherub smile to the bump for the White Sox, for the 1:10 p.m. first pitch.