The Kansas City Royals already are assured of fewer than 100 losses for the first time in four seasons. Not finishing in last place again would simply be an added bonus.
After rallying to win in the series opener, Kansas City continues its three-game set with the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night.
The Royals (68-89) trailed 5-1 at the end of the first inning Tuesday, but came back to post a 9-5 victory thanks to light-hitting Tony Pena Jr. After singling in the second, the shortstop had a solo homer in the fifth, and run-scoring doubles in the seventh and eighth.
The third four-hit game of his career raised Pena’s average to .264—the highest it’s been since Aug. 21.
“I don’t want to try to do too much,” Pena said. “We’re just going to try and keep battling (the White Sox) and get on top of them.”
Kansas City has finished last in the AL Central each of the last three seasons. With just their sixth win in 16 games during this season series, the Royals moved into a tie for fourth with Chicago (68-89), which hasn’t finished last in its division since 1989 when it was seventh in the AL West with a 69-92 record.
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said he will remember this season more than their 2005 championship year.
“You are not going to forget this one. A lot of people say 2005 was great, you’re not going to forget that one,” he said. “Yes, you will forget about 2005. I never thought we would be in this situation in 2007.”
Kansas City’s Billy Buckner (1-1, 4.50 ERA) will make his final start of the season and first career appearance against the White Sox. The right-hander gave up three runs and seven hits over five innings on Friday versus Detroit, but didn’t get a decision in the Royals’ 5-4 loss.
The three runs allowed came courtesy of a homer by Sean Casey. Buckner has given up four homers in his four starts.
The rookie will be making his fifth start and seventh appearance overall since being recalled from Triple-A Omaha on Aug. 24. The Royals are 1-5 when Buckner pitches.
Chicago’s Jon Garland (9-13, 4.42) looks to end a tough three-start skid. The right-hander’s last win came Sept. 4 against Detroit, but since then, he’s allowed 10 runs—five earned—in 23 innings en route to home losses against Minnesota and the Los Angeles Angels, and at Kansas City.
Facing the Royals on Thursday, Garland tossed a six-hitter for his first complete game of the season and seventh of his career, but the White Sox fell 3-0.
“If I give my team a quality start, I feel I’m doing my job,” said Garland, whose 15 wins against Kansas City are his most against one team.
Garland has won six straight home decisions over the Royals since the start of the 2004 season, and has given up only one run in each of his last six outings against them at US Cellular Field.
He needs to get through the first to tally 200 innings pitched for fourth year in a row. He also needs one win to reach double digits for the sixth straight season, but is also one loss shy of a new career high.