A weeklong stretch cannot cure the ails of a 162-game season, and it alone won’t override the Royals’ fourth-place standing in the American League Central. But inside the clubhouse, it’s enough to at least temporarily alter the expectations. As relief pitcher Ian Kennedy described it, the feeling morphs from thinking you could come back in a game to thinking you will come back.
Chalk up another one for the latter.
The Royals erased a three-run deficit to sweep the Chicago White Sox with a 6-5 victory Thursday at Kauffman Stadium in an afternoon game with the temperature hovering near 100 degrees.
The Royals (36-62) have won six of seven since last week’s All-Star break and four straight for the first time this season. The four-game sweep is the team’s first in 35 months, dating back to August 2016.
“We’re playing really good ball right now,” said Brad Keller, who picked up his sixth victory. “The offense is alive and killing it right now. The starters and relievers are doing their job.”
Kennedy worked into trouble in the ninth and then out of it for his 16th save, the White Sox scoring once before stranding runners at first and second to end the game.
A lineup that ranks second in the American League over the last week woke up in the third inning Thursday, despite resting a couple of its regular options. Cheslor Cuthbert and Jorge Soler homered during a five-run frame that flipped a 3-0 deficit into a 5-3 lead. Cuthbert had three hits in the game, and Soler, Hunter Dozier, Bubba Starling and Billy Hamilton had two.
Keller responded to the third-inning outpour by striking out the side in the ensuing inning.
“That was big. It’s just a statement,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He’s just telling his club when he goes out (there), ‘Hey, thanks for giving me the lead; I’m gonna hold it.’ He made some great pitches.”
Keller rebounded from a shaky — or unlucky — first inning. His 106-pitch outing stretched into the seventh. He allowed four runs, two of them unearned.
Four pitches into the game, the White Sox had placed runners at second and third base without hitting the ball beyond the infield dirt. On the next pitch, a Cuthbert error triggered the first run of the game. But Keller escaped with only a 2-0 deficit, widened to three on Yoan Moncada’s solo home run in the third.
“You just step back off the mound and take a deep breath after the first three guys get on,” Keller said.
The comeback began promptly. The Royals sent 10 hitters to the plate in the bottom of the third, and the first five reached base. Cuthbert hit his sixth home run 411 feet to left field. Dozier singled. Soler sneaked his 26th home run inside the right-field pole. Humberto Arteaga singled. Starling singled. A couple batters later, Hamilton drove in two, just his 11th and 12th RBIs of the season.
Two innings later, catcher Cam Gallagher squeezed home the sixth run — and successfully reached base on the play.
In game No. 98, the final five hitters in the Royals’ lineup had combined for just two home runs entering the game. But the lineup produced 13 hits in total.
White Sox manager Rick Renteria was ejected in the top of the second inning for arguing balls and strikes. The timing of the exit was curious, occurring moments after White Sox second baseman Yolmer Sanchez singled.