Last year was better.
But this year is the one that has to be addressed today, and boy howdy, that’s not gonna be any fun.
The Chicago White Sox were a very accommodating guest on Thursday. They were kind to who-he Kansas City Royals starter Brad Keller, allowing him to fast-forward through the lineup thrice with nary a scratch (two hits, one walk).
At 23 years, 244 days, Brad Keller is the youngest in the Majors to record at least 7.0 innings and allow 2 hits or fewer on Opening Day since 21-year-old Bob Feller’s no-hitter in 1940.— Nick Kappel (@NickKappel) March 29, 2019
(Bob Feller’s no-hitter in 1940 was against the White Sox.)
In fact, the White Sox dug such a hole with listless offense that a furious comeback in the ninth — well, OK, it was one HBP, two hits, three walks and four Royals relievers — wasn’t enough, as Yolmer Sánchez flew out weakly to right field off some 80 mph Brad Boxberger puffery with the bases loaded to end the game.
Until the ninth, the White Sox had as many baserunners (three, on two hits and a walk) as errors (Dylan Covey and Tim Anderson, throwing errors; Sánchez, fielding). While the club had moments of offensive breakout in spring training, this first game in K.C. — played almost completely without significant precipitation after first pitch was delayed nearly two hours by torrential storms — was as meek an effort as we’ve seen in 2019.
Eloy Jiménez, unfortunately, had the worst outing of anyone, whiffing twice in his first two at-bats, as Keller fed him slider after slider. His third at-bat was a weak tap out up the middle, while his fourth came with the bases juiced in the ninth, that HBP off the toe on another slider. The Big Baby is going to have to learn to crush Kansas City breaking stuff.
As you’d expect, Eloy was upbeat postgame, bless his big heart and strong shoulders:
Flip side, Carlos Rodón was pretty well aces. His final line (5 1⁄3 innings, three hits, three runs, two earned, one walk and six Ks) might not indicate so, but the lefty had a strong outing. Yeah, 101 pitches to get just past five isn’t ideal, but the one walk on a cool, wet day was extremely encouraging. And the third run charged to Rodón knocked him out of the game, a double-play grounder that Sánchez whiffed on, scoring Alex Gordon.
Yoán Moncada was the only White Sox position player to write home about, as he not only reached base in two of four at-bats (single, walk, no whiffs) but fielded third base flawlessly. Never more than on a hard charge (on wet turf) to grab a Chris Owings squibber to start the fifth.
Another sparkling defensive play came from the least likely source on the field, Daniel Palka, who leaped up against the right field wall to rob Gordon of extra bases in the fourth:
That sacrifice fly, scoring the first run of the game, came off of the first of two replay reversals that went against the White Sox. In the fourth, Adalberto Mondesi hit a leadoff triple but was called out for coming off of the bag (safe was, in fact, the correct call).
The second also bailed out Mondesi, as Anderson was initially called safe at first when a high throw lifted first baseman Frank Schwindel off of the bag. As obnoxious Royals color man Rex Hudler lectured the White Sox about “Baseball 101,” replays showed TA hitting the back of the first-base bag instead of the front, giving gravity that extra millisecond for Schwindel’s foot to touch base before Anderson.
The relief corps was poor today, as Nate Jones, Ryan Burr and Covey combined for 2 2⁄3 innings of two-hit, two-earned, one-walk, one-K ball. Rodón left a winnable game in the sixth, and the pen ended up providing the eventual winning runs.
It’s like WIN05 says, you score five runs, you give yourself a chance to win the game.
In a role reversal from a year ago, the Royals appear to be using March as a springboard to first place.
Matt Davidson, we miss you, buddy.
It’s an off-day tomorrow, as surely more swaths of rain will tickle Kauffman, bringing Saturday’s rematch of righties, Reynaldo López vs. Jacob Junis. Look for Welington Castillo to get the start, as he’s 2-for-5 career vs. Junis, with a homer, and Moncada is a good bet to stay hot as he’s a career 5-for-11, with two homers.
It’s a 1:15 p.m. CT game on NBCSCH and WGN-AM, and Jivin’ Joe Resis will be making his regular season SSS debut on the game coverage.