The Chicago White Sox have flirted with giving up their AL Central lead numerous times in recent weeks, but they’ve managed to maintain sole possession of the division lead for more than two months.
With a win on Sunday, they’ll still be there to begin a 10-game homestand.
The second-place Minnesota Twins trailed the White Sox (61-48) by 1 1/2 games at the All-Star break, and since then, they’ve been within a half-game on seven different occasions.
But they’ve been unable to take advantage of any opportunity to pass Chicago, which has held the top spot alone since May 13. After the White Sox lost 9-7 at Kansas City on Saturday, Minnesota dropped a 5-1 decision against Cleveland to remain a half-game back.
After Sunday’s game, which will decide the three-game series between Chicago and Kansas City, the White Sox play their next 10 games at U.S. Cellular Field, where they are 35-16.
They’ve lost five of seven on the road, however, giving up six runs six times on their current road trip. The Royals (51-60) had a season-high 19 hits in Saturday’s victory, their fifth in the last six games.
Even though newly acquired outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. left the game with leg cramps related to the 95-degree heat, the White Sox did rally with four runs in the eighth. The problem hasn’t been the offense, which has scored 30 runs in the last five games.
“We are not pitching,” Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said. “I don’t care how many (Griffeys) we bring in here. We’ve got to start pitching better. You got to go out there and do it.”
Clayton Richard (0-1, 9.35 ERA) will try on Sunday, making his third career start. The left-hander has allowed five runs in fewer than five innings in both of his first two major league outings.
He’ll face Greinke, who has been wildly inconsistent against the White Sox. In a 9-5 loss July 18 in Chicago, he gave up his sixth run while recording his first out, falling to 0-6 with a 7.78 ERA in his career at U.S. Cellular Field.
But the right-hander has been much better against the White Sox at home, going 2-2 with a 2.93 in eight career appearances. He pitched eight two-hit innings against them in a 3-0 win last Sept. 20, then gave up one run in seven innings without receiving a decision in Kansas City’s 4-1 win on July 10.
Greinke (8-7, 3.98) won for the first time in more than a month on Monday, giving up two runs and striking out 11 in 7 1-3 innings of a 4-2 victory over Oakland.
“I’ve been doing that a lot lately—more than usual,” Greinke said of his strikeouts. “… Maybe this will give me a little confidence.”
Kansas City’s hitters should feel good about themselves after Saturday’s effort. Five different Royals had three hits, and eight of their nine starters scored a run. The only one who didn’t—Esteban German—had three RBIs.