After sweeping the league’s best team, the Chicago White Sox kept rolling Monday against the AL’s worst.
They look to keep the pressure on in the AL Central when they continue their four-game series with the Kansas City Royals at U.S. Cellular Field on Tuesday.
The White Sox won Monday’s series opener 12-2, extending their win streak to five games. Chicago has won 12 of its last 17 as it mounts a charge on Detroit in the division.
The White Sox (71-46) swept the Tigers over the weekend to close within 5 1/2 games, although Detroit beat Boston 7-4 on Monday night to maintain its lead.
“We know what is at stake. We know how we have to play to try to get where we want to go,” said Chicago catcher A.J. Pierzynski. “There is not enough time for letdowns. There are 40-some games left and we need to try to win every single game.”
The White Sox lead Boston and Minnesota by three games in the wild card standings. The Royals (41-78) have lost five straight, all on the road, and nine of their past 12 overall.
Chicago scored eight runs in the fourth inning against Kansas City on Monday. Jim Thome capped the rally with his 36th homer of the season.
“We were fortunate to get some pitches to hit and capitalized,” said Thome, who has hit safely in nine of 10 games against Kansas City this season. “He (Royals starter Mark Redman) knows how to pitch. He changes speeds very well. Some of the balls he left in the middle of the plate we hit pretty hard. It worked out.”
Thome’s .326 lifetime average against the Royals is the highest of any team against which he’s played more than 30 games.
He hit a three-run homer off Tuesday’s Royals starter Runelvys Hernandez in a 6-2 win on May 6, and is 4-for-9 with four RBIs in his career off the right-hander.
Hernandez (2-7, 8.15 ERA) looks for his first win in five starts when he takes the mound. The right-hander has been one of the AL’s worst pitchers over the last month, posting a 9.00 ERA since being recalled from the minors on July 21.
Hernandez made one of his best starts of the season against the Red Sox on Thursday, allowing seven hits and four runs in seven innings, although he didn’t earn a decision in Kansas City’s 5-4 victory.
“We can compete with the best teams in the world now and we’re going to show our fans we’re going to get better and better,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez is 0-2 with a 16.43 ERA in two starts against the White Sox this season, having allowed 14 runs in 7 2-3 innings. He’s 2-6 with a 7.76 ERA in 10 career starts against Chicago.
Javier Vazquez (11-6, 5.13) looks for his third straight victory when he starts for the White Sox on Tuesday. Vazquez beat the Blue Jays on Aug. 5, allowing one run and two hits in eight innings, then defeated the Yankees on Thursday, allowing two runs in five innings.
He has dominated the Royals this season, going 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in three starts.
Vazquez is 4-0 with a 1.43 ERA in five career starts against Kansas City, allowing a total of six runs in those outings.
Chicago has won nine of 13 meetings with Kansas City this season and six of the seven games at U.S. Cellular Field.