The Chicago White Sox have all but clinched the American League Central. With a 9 1/2-game lead on second-place Cleveland, the expectation might be that the White Sox will get a little more than the usual effort from the opponent when they come to town.
As Kansas City manager Mike Matheny’s squad prepares to host the White Sox (78-56) for the first game of a three-game series Friday night, he says his approach does not change, whether the opponent is in first place or last.
“Not at all,” he said. “Our guys deserve the consistency of expectation. I’ve said this a million times, and it’s a boring answer, but that really comes down to the process. The process isn’t defined by the opposition. It’s defined by how our guys compete.
“We believe that if we compete to that, the results will be there. It doesn’t really matter who we’re playing. If we play our kind of game, we can walk back in here with our heads held high. Obviously, we want to win every game.”
Matheny says it won’t work to send a mixed message to his players, and it’s also not fair to the fans.
“It’s really ineffective to go in there and say, ‘We played against this team but (the next) team is really good. We’ve got to be better.’
“Our fans deserve to see everything we’ve got every single night. If that’s what we’re asking for (each night), how can we ask for anything more (against first-place teams)?”
The White Sox will send left-hander Dallas Keuchel (8-7, 5.00 ERA) to the mound. Matheny has not named a starter for his Royals (59-74).
The White Sox had Thursday off after defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-3 to complete a two-game sweep.
The Royals, who came into a three-game series off a 7-3 road trip, suffered their fourth straight loss with a 4-2 setback against the Cleveland Indians on Thursday. Triston McKenzie, who has never lost to the Royals, held them to one run on two hits.
Keuchel certainly won’t be looking past the Royals. He has a career 6-3 mark with a 2.78 ERA in 13 starts. His ERA against Kansas City is the second best in his career vs. any team he has faced more than five times (he has a 2.23 ERA in nine appearances vs. the Yankees).
But, against Kansas City in 2021, he’s 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA. The first loss to Kansas City started a slide in which Keuchel has lost four of his last five decisions. In his last outing on Aug. 27, he had the shortest start of his career as he gave up six runs (five earned) on seven hits in one-plus inning.
“That’s the team concept,” manager Tony La Russa said after the White Sox defeated the Cubs 17-13 to get Keuchel off the hook. “The starting pitchers pick us up when we’re having trouble scoring. Once in a while, our starter has a rough outing and the offense picks him up.
“He had a rough first inning. Sometimes just catching your breath you can go out there and the sharpness is there. Sometimes it’s not your day. It happens to all starting pitchers.”
–Field Level Media