The Royals and Tigers are supposed to be the teams the White Sox make hay against, and the Sox did what they had to do taking a 3-2 victory from the Royals in their series opener at Kauffman Stadium Friday.
After a distressing 1-4 start to their 60-game season against the Twins and Indians — the two best teams in the AL Central last season and still that until proven otherwise — the Sox righted themselves a bit Wednesday by salvaging the third game of their series against the Indians behind Lucas Giolito’s six scoreless innings, then eeked out a win against the Royals.
Keuchel allowed seven hits to the Royals but pitched 5 1/3 innings of two-run ball, and Adam Engel’s three-run homer in the second inning on a night the Sox scratched out only four hits, including only Engel’s homer from the No. 2-9 spots in the lineup, was just enough.
“This Royals team has actually made some strides the last year or two,” Keuchel said. “Their lineup has some pop so it’s not like we should be just running through ‘em. At the same time we should be winning these ballgames based on talent up and down the roster.
“The guys in the rotation, I’ve said, ‘hey it’s on us because we’ve given up runs early and the last couple of games we’ve been fortunate to have some runs. Giolito did his job. We’re just going to come out and pass the baton off and make sure we get off on a nice run.”
Gio Gonzalez gets the baton Saturday night, making his first start. The veteran lefty, signed to a $4.5 million deal in the offseason, relieved entered to pitch in relief Sunday when Reynaldo Lopez left with a sore shoulder. Gonzalez, who gave up six runs, is taking Lopez’ spot in the rotation. He gave up six runs on seven hits in 3 2⁄3 innings.
The Sox’ pitching depth has already been tested, with Michael Kopech opting out and Jimmy Lambert (forearm strain) following Lopez to the injured list.
“I went from warming up in game one, throwing in game three and now pitching as a starter against Kansas City in game eight,” Gonzalez said. “Baseball has had some roller coaster rides, and this is one of it.”
Gonzalez, 34, who missed all of June and three weeks in July with the Brewers last season with left shoulder impingement syndrome, ramped up slowly during spring training.
“I’m going to do what I can to prepare myself and do whatever treatment I have to do to get ready,” he said. “I’ve got to do my job as a starter now. This is the opportunity they’re giving me. Now I have to take advantage of it.”
The Royals lost 103 games and the Tigers lost 114 last season, posting two of the worst four records in baseball. There are no pushovers in baseball — the Tigers are off to a 5-3 start and the Sox needed to beat the Royals (3-5) to get out of last place in the standings. But these are the games the Sox need to cover at a winning clip — they play 10 games against each, which comprises one third of their entire schedule.