Two of the top three AL Central teams are set to battle this weekend as the Chicago White Sox invade Kaufman Stadium to take on the surprising Kansas City Royals. The White Sox were favored by many to win the AL Central, while the Royals were expected to finish nearer the bottom of the division. Yet, the two teams enter play Friday night with identical 16-13 records, one-half game behind the Cleveland Indians.
AL Central Teams: Renewing a Rivalry
The Sox and Royals have been rivals from the time the Royals joined the American Leagues as an expansion team in 1969. At times their games have featured some interesting conflicts. In 2015, the two teams had a bench-clearing brawl at Comiskey Park. Four years later, Royals pitcher Brad Keller drilled Sox shortstop Tim Anderson after Anderson had homered off him earlier in the game. This triggered another bench-clearing incident. This was after one of Anderson"s patented bat flips.
Those brawls were entertaining, for sure, especially for AL Central teams that were headed in decidedly opposite directions. In 2015, the Royals won 93 games and went on to win their first World Series since 1985. The White Sox, meanwhile, would finish at 76-86, just avoiding the last place in the division. In 2019, neither team was competitive in the division. The Sox went 72-90, while the Royals finished at 59-103. So, the brawl in 2019 just may have been the highlight of the season for these two teams. In any case, the Anderson bat flip and Keller"s response surely added fuel to this rivalry.
That Was Then, This Is Now
Fast forward to the current season, and these two teams find themselves in the midst of early-season contention. The Royals, a young, up-and-coming team, have been a pleasant surprise. In fact, they are one of the better surprises so far in this young season. While their arrow is definitely pointing upward, few expected them to be tied for second place, a mere half-game out of first place.
The White Sox have been somewhat underwhelming so far, at least compared to the lofty expectations they had entering the season. While their starting pitching has been the best in the AL, every other area of the team has had its struggles. Combined with some questionable managerial decisions by Tony La Russa, their inconsistent play has many fans wondering if they really are the best of the AL Central teams.w good this can really be this year.
So, the two AL Central teams will square off in a three-game series in Kansas City this weekend. Depending on how the Indians do against the Reds, the winner of this series may sit atop the AL Central by Sunday night. That of course remains to be seen. Yes, it is very early in the season, and nobody knows how the season will turn out. In any event, though, this figures to be a hard-fought series between these long-time rivals.
What to Look for
The Sox come into the series having won six of their last 10, while the Royals have dropped seven of their last 10. The two teams met last month in Chicago, and the AL Central teams split a rain-shortened two-game series. Now, nearly a month later, they will play three games at Kaufman Stadium. The Royals will be looking to make a statement that they are legitimate, while the White Sox are hoping to put the pesky Royals in their place. Whatever happens, it should be fun baseball worth watching.
Probable Pitching Matchups:
Friday (7:10 PM CDT) Sox: Carlos Rodon, 4-0, 0.72 ERA vs. KC: Brad Keller, 2-3, 8.06 ERA
Saturday (6:10 PM CDT) Sox: Lance Lynn, 2-1, 1.82 ERA vs. KC: Daniel Lynch, 0-0, 5.79 ERA
Sunday (1:10 PM CDT) Sox: Lucas Giolito, 1-3, 4.99 ERA vs. KC: Mike Minor, 2-1, 5.23 ERA
Players to Watch:
For the White Sox, Carlos Rodon has been one of the best pitchers in baseball so far. Yoan Moncada has been showing signs of returning to his 2019 form while reigning MVP Jose Abreu continues to struggle at the plate. The Sox also have to increased production from Yasmani Grandal and Adam Eaton, if they are to become a better offensive team.
For the Royals, top pitching prospect Daniel Lynch will be making his second career start. Andrew Benintendi has started to hit the ball well of late and has become the Royals" leading hitter, among everyday players. Whit Merrifield and Salvador Perez have cooled off since their hot starts. The Royals will be looking for both of them to pick up the pace.
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