One of the beauties of baseball — and, OK, that might not be the best word to throw around Friday night at a nearly sold-out Kauffman Stadium — is you just never know.
Jeremy Guthrie has, since joining the Royals, owned Chicago like no one since Capone. And these White Sox, ranking last in the league in runs, have proven immensely ownable to more than a few pitchers.
So who saw this coming?
The White Sox pummeled Guthrie like an early Tyson victim in a 9-1 annihilation. After dispatching one nemesis in 21/3 innings, they cuffed reliever Bruce Chen, who has also been tough on them in recent years.
They also spray-painted the Shuttlecocks at the Nelson-Atkins Museum, pillaged the Truman Library and mocked our barbecue. Figuratively, anyway. (Probably.)
“It’s just one of those days where you forget about it,” said first baseman Eric Hosmer, who had two of the Royals’ three hits.
“You hate to have it against another team in the division. But over the course of 162 games, I don’t think there are many teams in the league that aren’t going to get beat like this.”
Yes, it was blowout.
And, really, those have been remarkably rare this season for the Royals, who have lost by more than five runs on just three previous occasions — and only one other time since late April.
“We got beat up pretty good tonight,” manager Ned Yost said. “But it wasn’t a game we gave away. It wasn’t a game we made a bunch of mistakes in. It’s just one of those nights when Jeremy didn’t have his good stuff.”
It was also the White Sox’s biggest winning margin of the season. That it all came in front of a crowd of 33,830 —swelled by fireworks and a Buck Night promotion — made it particularly unfortunate.
Guthrie, 7-5, gave up six runs in his 21/3 innings, which marked the shortest outing of the season by a Royals starter. (Wade Davis went 32/3 innings on April 24 in a 7-5 loss in Detroit.)
“I just couldn’t find the strike zone,” Guthrie said. “Created a mess in the first inning. And a bunch of base-hits in the third as well.”
It was bad from the start, too, when Guthrie walked Alejandro De Aza to start the game and then surrendered a double to Alexei Ramirez. Two more walks contributed to Chicago’s two-run inning.
The White Sox knocked out Guthrie in a five-run third that saw Chen yield a three-run homer to Dayan Viciedo after entering with two on and one out. Chen also allowed a two-run homer to De Aza in the sixth that made it 9-0.
Chicago lefty Hector Santiago, 3-5, didn’t waste the support in winning for just the second time since May 2. He yielded only the one run and three hits in a career-high eight innings before Addison Reed pitched the ninth.
“I feel like they were taking first pitches,” Santiago said, “and (I was) getting that first pitch strike over the plate —and then pitching corners with change-ups and cutters.”
For all that, the Royals’ one run was, potentially, significant.
Hosmer crushed a 414-foot homer to right field with two outs in the sixth inning. It was just the sort of pull power the Royals have been seeking from him since the season started.
“I’m starting to drive the ball to right field better,” Hosmer said. “I think it’s still a work in progress, but it’s getting pretty good. I feel real comfortable right now. I’m in a good spot.”
Everything else is pretty much best forgotten.
The Royals, 34-37, suffered their third straight loss since climbing back to .500 earlier in the week. Chicago, 30-41, won for only the second time in nine games.
Opponents scored 19 runs over the last three games; the Royals permitted just 34 while opening June with a 12-4 run.
Perhaps it was the law of averages evening out.
If so, it was a harsh law for Guthrie, who had permitted just two earned runs over 442/3 innings against the White Sox in six previous starts since joining the Royals in a July 20, 2012, trade from Colorado.
“Having Guthrie and Chen in there,” Chicago manager Robin Ventura said, “as tough as they’ve been on us, it’s like you’re exorcising some kind of curse. It was good.”
The White Sox struck twice in the first inning despite a major base-running mistake by De Aza, broke for the plate on Alex Rios’ routine grounder to third with no outs and runners at second and third.
It was an easy out that provided Guthrie with the chance to escape unharmed. Instead, his command betrayed him. Successive walks to Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko forced in a run.
Conor Gillaspie’s sacrifice fly to deep right made it 2-0.
It got a lot worse in the third, which Ramirez started with a single. Rios followed with an RBI double over the head of left fielder Alex Gordon. Dunn’s single into left-center field made it 4-0.
When Gillaspie’s one-out single moved Dunn to third, Yost had seen enough. Out came Guthrie; in came Chen. Viciedo hit Chen’s second pitch over the left-center wall for a three-run homer and a 7-0 lead.
“Bruce came in and gave up a three-run homer,” Yost said, “but he did a great job of saving the pen and letting us get through that. We’re in great shape, pitching-wise, going into (Saturday).
“It was an ugly game. You just have to go home and get ready to play a good game.”
Or at least a better one.