The White Sox indomitable run of series victories is over, reduced to at best a split with the Kansas City Royals after this evening’s 9-1 blowout loss in which they seemingly never had a chance. It’s an outcome made even more frustrating by handing Brad Keller — an entirely unremarkable pitcher who would have washed out of a big-league rotation three years ago if the Royals organization didn’t make the White Sox look like The Jetsons by comparison — his third W of the season in a game where he seemingly had even more beatable stuff than usual.
Unlike his most recent outings in which strong starts were undone in the later innings, things unraveled for Lance Lynn more or less immediately in this one. After getting an out on the first pitch of the game courtesy of Bobby Witt Jr., all eight of the subsequent Royals hitters managed to reach base, with an out via fielder’s choice along the way. The four runs they got out of it weren’t cheap, either, with the first four hits of the inning clocking in at no softer than 102 mph.
All told, Lynn threw nearly 40 pitches in the first inning alone, and a look at his locations makes the big crooked number make a lot of sense.
Bobby Witt Jr. made the final out of the first as well as the initial one, and Lynn then proceeded to set down the next seven hitters, and 10 out of the next 12. Unfortunately, one of those exceptions gave the Royals a 5-1 lead: Michael Massey’s first longball of the year, the highlight of a three-hit day that saw the Palos Park native come up a double shy of the cycle.
That “1” on the Sox side of the score in that highlight came in their half of the second inning, when a walk, single, and walk by Gavin Sheets, Yasmani Grandal, and Hanser Alberto plated one for the visitors.
But after Andrew Vaughn chased out of the zone for double-play ball to strand a runner in scoring position at the end of the first inning, Chicago’s inability to lay off of bad pitches quickly took them out of that second-inning rally, too, leaving the other two of those baserunners right where they stood after Alberto’s single. It was their only offense of the game, a few more scattered hits notwithstanding.
Meanwhile, things quickly went from bad to worse for Lynn after Massey’s home run, as the fifth inning began with a nine-pitch walk to MJ Melendez and shortly thereafter included Nick Pratto absolutely plastering a 105 mph laser into the right field bullpen for a 7-1 lead.
Lynn managed to finish the fifth inning, but will leave Kansas City still searching for answers with 2022’s second-half rebound having apparently evaporated. His velocity was in-line with his season averages, but when he doesn’t locate, it spells trouble.
Nicholas Padilla, just called up this afternoon, was tasked with mop-up duty, allowing two additional runs while working the sixth and seventh innings in his second major league appearance, the previous one having come last summer with the Cubs. Keynan Middleton wrapped up the Sox pitching line with a scoreless bottom of the eighth inning, lowering his ERA to 2.38 in the early going of what’s shaping up to be impressive campaign. Oh, how I missed the days of wondering whether there was a decent prospect to be had in exchange for discovering a half-season of Anthony Swarzak.
The final score sat right there at 9-1, as the White Sox went down without a whimper more or less the rest of the way after failing to get across more than one in the second inning. Keller allowed just three hits in five innings despite barely throwing half of his pitches in the zone (such are Chicago’s free-swinging ways), and he was followed by a quartet of scoreless frames from José Cuas, Amir Garrett, Josh Staumont, and Taylor Clarke, allowing three hits and striking out six. The sole highlight on the position player side came courtesy of Luis Robert Jr., who wore the Golden Sombrero at the plate but likely saved the game from being a double-digit affair with an impressive rob of a surefire Nate Eaton double.
The Sox are back in action tomorrow afternoon, getting set to wrap up this four-game series with a 1:10 p.m. CT getaway day start at Kauffman Stadium. Brady Singer, whose 8.82 ERA is one of the few in the league to out-bad Lynn’s if you lower the innings pitched threshold a little, starts for the Royals, looking to get back on track after a breakout 2022 that resulted in 4.5 rWAR in 24 starts. The game will be broadcast in all the usual places, if, for some reason, you wouldn’t rather be working instead.