After receiving one of their strongest pitching efforts in more than a month, the Chicago White Sox hope Mark Buehrle can help build on the performance as they try to remain in first place in the AL Central.
Buehrle takes the mound Wednesday as the White Sox continue a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals, who dealt the left-hander his most recent loss.
Chicago (62-52) moved a half-game ahead of Minnesota into first place in the division Tuesday following a 9-0 win over the Royals (54-65). Javier Vazquez allowed five hits over eight innings for the White Sox’s first shutout since June 26 while Jermaine Dye, Nick Swisher and A.J. Pierzynski each homered. The White Sox are 37-13 when they hit multiple homers.
“That’s the only way we’re going to win,” manager Ozzie Guillen said with a laugh. “I think this team’s built around home run hitters.”
While the White Sox offense bounced back after a 5-1 loss to Boston on Monday, the strong start by Vazquez may be even more promising for Chicago. Its starters went 3-4 with a 6.27 ERA over their previous nine games, but the eight innings Vazquez pitched Tuesday were the most by a Chicago starter since he pitched a complete game on July 3 against Oakland.
Guillen is now hoping to start seeing some consistency from his team, which is 7-9 since July 27.
“The main thing to me is how we play (Wednesday),” he said. “The last two series we face Kansas City, we do the same thing. We win the first game and all of a sudden we lose the series. I hope these guys remember that the way I do.”
Buehrle (9-10, 3.94 ERA) looks for a better outing against the Royals than his one earlier this month. He allowed season highs of eight runs and 14 hits over 4 1-3 innings of a 9-7 loss on Aug. 2.
The veteran southpaw is 17-8 with a 3.57 ERA in 34 career starts against the Royals, but he is 1-2 with a 5.30 ERA in three starts against them this season.
Buehrle told the White Sox’s official Web site on Friday that the heat affected him as he allowed one run over seven innings to win 5-3 over the Red Sox.
“I was trying to get out alive,” he said. “I didn’t care if I gave up 100 runs that game; I was so beat out there. I was so exhausted out there.”
Kansas City lost for the fifth time in its last six games Tuesday. The last-place Royals have been outscored 40-13 during that stretch.
Luke Hochevar (6-10, 5.54) takes the mound for the Royals on Wednesday, looking to snap a three-decision losing streak. He pitched 5 2-3 innings last Wednesday against Boston, allowing five runs and seven hits in an 8-2 loss. The right-hander is 1-5 with a 7.45 ERA in his last seven starts.
Hochevar is 0-1 with a 6.17 ERA in two starts against the White Sox this season.
Chicago’s Carlos Quentin, who leads the AL with 32 homers, missed Tuesday’s game with a sore arm after being hit by a pitch on Monday. Guillen said Quentin will also miss Wednesday’s game.