Kansas City (59-50) at Chicago (58-53)

  • Game info: 8:05 pm EDT Mon Aug 4, 2003
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The AL Central-leading Kansas City Royals could have slugger Mike Sweeney back in the lineup when they open a crucial series with the second-place Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.

Sweeney, out since June 19 with tightness in his upper back, spent the weekend on a rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Omaha. The Royals’ first baseman was hitting a team-high .321 with 12 homers and 50 RBIs in 60 games prior to his injury.

Sweeney has missed the last 42 games, watching as the Royals have remained baseball’s biggest surprise, sitting two games in front of the White Sox heading into this three-game set. He will be used primarily as a designated hitter when he returns to the lineup.

“I’m not too concerned with getting three or four hits a game,” Sweeney said just prior to heading to Omaha. “I just want to get my timing back. At this point, my body feels great and my swing feels great.”

The Royals were clinging to a one-game lead in the division prior to Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Tampa Bay. Rookie Jimmy Gobble pitched brilliantly in his big league debut and Aaron Guiel hit an inside-the-park homer as Kansas City took the decisive game of the series.

The White Sox won 13 of 14 to pull into a tie for first place before dropping the final two games of their weekend series with AL West-leading Seattle.

On Sunday, Mark Buehrle was pounded for six runs in only five innings, suffering an 8-2 loss that halted his career-high seven-game winning streak.

Chicago swept a three-game series in Kansas City last week to tighten the division race, and has won five of six from the Royals after dropping the first three meetings this season.

STANDINGS: Royals - 1st place, AL Central. White Sox - 2nd place, 2 GB, AL Central.

ROYALS PROBABLE STARTER: Runelvys Hernandez (5-4, 3.42 ERA). Hernandez was unbeaten in three starts since returning from the disabled list before Wednesday’s 15-4 loss to the White Sox at Kauffman Stadium. The right-hander, who missed a month due to inflammation in his elbow, was pounded for a season high-tying six runs and seven hits over a season-low 2 2-3 innings. Hernandez is 1-2 with a 5.48 ERA in four career starts against the White Sox.

WHITE SOX PROBABLE STARTER: Jon Garland (8-7, 4.48 ERA). Garland is 2-0 in his last four starts, with the White Sox winning each outing. The right-hander allowed four runs and eight hits over six innings in Thursday’s rout of Hernandez and the Royals. He has allowed four earned runs or fewer in each of his last 10 starts. Garland is 6-2—his most wins against any opponent—with a 3.74 ERA in 15 career appearances, including 12 starts, against Kansas City.

OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Royals - Carlos Beltran, .301 avg., 16 HRs, 66 runs and 30 SBs; Raul Ibanez, 67 RBIs. White Sox - Magglio Ordonez, .316 avg. and 68 runs; Frank Thomas, 25 HRs; Carlos Lee, 76 RBIs and 10 SBs.

SEASON SERIES: White Sox, 5-4.

STREAKS AND NOTES: Royals - Kansas City has three inside-the-park homers this season—its most since hitting four in 1992. The franchise record of seven was established in 1979. … The Royals are 37-0 this season when holding opponents to three runs or fewer. … 1B-DH Sweeney boasts a .407 career average (11-for-27) with four homers and 11 RBIs against RHP Garland. White Sox - OF Aaron Rowand is batting .417 since being recalled from the minors June 10, and has six hits in his last 10 at-bats. … 1B-DH Thomas had the day off Saturday. He is 0-for-16 since getting his 1,999th career hit. … OF Ordonez is hitless in 10 at-bats since having a 10-game hitting streak snapped.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Royals - 28-23 on the road. White Sox - 33-20 at home.

INJURIES: Royals - INF Mendy Lopez (calf), 15-day DL; 1B Sweeney (back), 15-day DL; RHP Miguel Asencio (elbow), 60-day DL. White Sox - None.

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Starting Pitchers

R. Hernandez HOU vs. J. Garland COL
7-5 Record 12-13
4.61 ERA 4.51
48 K 108
37 BB 74
1.35 WHIP 1.37