The Chicago White Sox have been atop the AL Central for the past two months, but that could quickly change.
The White Sox look to bounce back from a disappointing loss to the Kansas City Royals and avoid dropping out of first place when they conclude their three-game series on Sunday.
After defeating the Royals 9-5 in Friday’s series opener, Chicago (55-41) lost 9-1 on Saturday. The White Sox lead the AL in homers (130) and are fourth in the league in runs (475), but managed only two hits Saturday after scoring 29 runs in their previous three games.
With Saturday’s loss, Chicago’s lead atop the Central was sliced to one-half game over surging Minnesota. The White Sox have not been out of first place since May 16.
“It will be tight the whole way I promise you,” said Paul Konerko, who is 1-for-12 in his last three games. “It’s going to go down to the end. There will be a lot of momentum swings. There are enough games left where there will be hot streaks and cold streaks. It’s not the middle of September where you can see the finish line. … We’re not there yet where it’s come in and watch the TV.”
Chicago has won six of eight over the Royals (44-54) this season, and has not lost a series to them since dropping two of three at Kauffman Stadium Sept. 1-3, 2006.
With Jose Guillen out with back spasms, Butler has picked up the offense. Seven of his 26 RBIs and two of his four homers this season have come in the first two games of this series.
“That means more to me than anything,” said Butler, who had been in an 0-for-12 slump. “Just driving in runs. It hasn’t been the best for me this year doing that. Just trying to turn it around a little bit. It feels good to help out.”
Butler looks to keep his recent hot streak going against Chicago’s John Danks (7-4, 2.67 ERA), who looks to continue his success into the second half of the season.
After going 6-13 with a 5.50 ERA as a rookie last season, Danks has been a pleasant surprise this year, owning the third-best ERA in the AL. Chicago has won seven of his last nine starts, and the left-hander has not lost since May 24.
On July 12, Danks allowed four runs and seven hits with eight strikeouts in 7 2-3 innings of a 9-7 victory over Texas, the first time since June 9 he gave up more than two runs.
Danks has pitched well in his two career starts versus the Royals, allowing three runs in 13 2-3 innings, but was not a factor in the decision in either outing.
The Royals counter with Brian Bannister (7-8, 5.24), who makes his second straight start against the White Sox.
On July 9 against Chicago, Bannister allowed four hits and three walks in 6 2-3 innings, but also gave up five runs - four coming on a pair of two-run homers by Carlos Quentin. He did not receive a decision in the 7-6 loss.
Bannister stumbled into the break, allowing 19 runs in 16 1-3 innings over his final three starts before the All-Star game.
The right-hander has not had much success against the White Sox lately, either, going 0-1 with a 11.68 ERA in his last three starts.