High Five: Royals Ride Big First Inning to 7-2 Win over White Sox

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Dale Sveum strikes again.

The Royals erupted for a five-run first inning to support Jeremy Guthrie en route to their fifth straight victory, a 7-2 win over the Chicago White Sox on Friday night. With the Detroit Tigers’ loss to Minnesota, Kansas City now finds themselves a mere 1.5 games back of first place in the A.L. Central.

Kansas City is now 10-4 in the Dale Sveum era, which began immediately following a three game home sweep at the hands of the last-place Houston Astros. For the seventh time in those 13 games, the Royals scored six runs or more.

It began early for the Royals on Friday night. Nori Aoki and Omar Infante opened the game with base hits off of Chicago starter Jose Quintana (3-7), and Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler followed with RBI singles to make the score 2-0. Alex Gordon then lined a double down the right field line, scoring Hosmer and stretching the lead to 3-0 before Quintana could record an out.

Following a Salvador Perez strikeout, Lorenzo Cain rocked a two-run double to deep left, scoring Butler and Gordon and giving the Royals five first-inning runs, matching a season high. Ironically, they also jumped out to a 5-0 lead in their last series opener against Chicago back on May 19. Kansas City would go on to blow the lead and lose the game 7-6.

The memory of that one May game was buried in every fan’s mind, and the situations were quite similar. Back on May 19, the Royals were attempting to climb to two games over .500, they were facing the White Sox, and also opening a series…there were similarities. Fortunately, Jeremy Guthrie would make sure history wouldn’t repeat itself.

Guthrie (3-6), who hadn’t won since April 9, posted a decent enough stat line. The 35-year-old threw 5.2 innings of two-run ball, yielding six hits while walking eight. He also struck out a season-high nine batters, which matched the highest total of fanned hitters in his tenure as a Royal. Guthrie also struck out nine on April 4, 2013, also against the White Sox. Those that watched the game, though, know that things were far from easy for the Royals’ starter.

Up 5-0 before even throwing a pitch, Guthrie opened the game by giving up a single and a walk. He was able to limit the damage to just one run via sac fly, and the Royals got the run right back the next inning courtesy of a sac fly of their own from Eric Hosmer.

Things got messier for Jeremy in the second inning. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with nobody out. Following a strikeout of Tyler Flowers, Guthrie walked Adam Eaton with the bases loaded to make the score 6-2. His command clearly lost and his “stuff” absent, Guthrie locked down the White Sox from that point forward, getting out of the inning with a strikeout and a fly out. From that point on, while far from sharp, he managed to get through 5 2/3 innings without giving up any additional runs. He was at 51 pitches through two, and finished his outing at 110, saving Ned Yost from having to dig too deep into his bullpen.

Butler drove in the only other run of the game when he singled home Infante in the seventh inning. Aaron Crow, Francisley Bueno, Kelvin Herrera and Tim Collins closed the game with 3.1 shutout innings.

The only blemish from Friday’s win was when shortstop Alcides Escobar left the game in the eighth inning with a leg injury. Escobar doubled to extend his hitting streak to 11 games and appeared to roll his ankle while rounding first base. While he was removed from the game, it appeared to be precautionary, considering that the Royals were nursing a 7-2 lead when the injury occurred. Ned Yost later called the injury ‘calf tightness’, while Escobar claimed he’d be ready to play on Saturday afternoon. Pedro Ciriaco replaced Escobar as a pinch runner, marking the first time that anyone besides Alcides played at the shortstop position this season for Kansas City.

Dale Sveum could probably run for mayor of Kansas City and win at this point. Through 14 games of the Sveum era, the Royals’ team hitting line is .270/.317/.409. Statistically, it’s not a monumental difference from the line during Pedro Grifol’s time (.251/.306/.348). I always hated it when announcers or players claim that confidence is behind surging production, but the Royals are playing like an entirely different team as of late. Hitters are starting to string hits together to manufacture runs. They are hitting more extra base hits, including homers, and (for the most part), they look much more comfortable at the plate. Eric Hosmer isn’t swinging at pitches that bounce in the dirt. Billy Butler isn’t grounding into double plays. Alex Gordon is still awesome. The second the Royals began playing more intelligently, they started winning games. Imagine that?

Now winners of five straight, the pitching matchups in the last two games of this White Sox series favor Kansas City. If Sveum can keep his magic going and the pitching staff can continue to roll, it could be a summer full of fun that baseball fans haven’t experienced in Kansas City for nearly three decades.

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Author: Ryan Landreth

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