KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)—While the Chicago White Sox were winning the 2005 World Series and proving themselves the best team in baseball, the Kansas City Royals were losing 106 games and proving themselves the worst.
Now, just about a season and a half later, the long-woeful Royals actually have more victories (34) than the White Sox (33). Getting key hits from a bevy of rookies and strong pitching from Brian Bannister and Zack Greinke, the Royals beat Chicago 8-1 Friday night for their first five-game winning streak in two years.
A victory on Saturday would actually nudge them past the White Sox and let them escape last place in the AL Central, something they haven’t done this late since 2003.
“You never would have thought something like that, them being the 2005 World Series champions,” said Shane Costa, who had a two-run single in the three-run seventh. “It just shows this team’s making its way and doing some things.”
The loss snapped Chicago’s season-best four-game winning streak, something that started after the White Sox had lost five in a row.
“To me, what’s the difference between last place and first place?” said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. “Maybe pride? Nobody wants to finish last, especially with the ball club we have. How much money we’re spending with this ballclub, it shouldn’t finish last.”
Bannister (5-4) gave up only one run on four hits and won for the fifth time this month. Greinke held the White Sox to one hit in the last 2 2-3 innings to earn the first save of his three-year major league career.
“Zack was outstanding again,” said manager Buddy Bell. “He was really efficient. He looks like he’s having fun. I’d have fun, too, if I had that kind of arm with that kind of stuff.”
Jose Contreras (5-9) took his fifth loss in his last six decisions.
“He was leaving his splitter up a little bit and he was trying to rely on his fastball,” said Costa. “We were just looking for something good to hit over the middle of the plate and drive it.”
Contreras allowed six runs and nine hits in 6 1-3 innings, with three walks and three strikeouts.
“I didn’t have the split going today at all,” he said through an interpreter. “A couple of times I was ahead in the count and threw pitches right down the middle of the plate.”
The Royals, coming off their first three-game sweep of the Angels in Anaheim in 11 years, had not won five in a row since June 11-16, 2005. Every starter but one either scored a run or drove one in.
“Everything we’ve done has been as good as we’ve done in a while,” Bell said.
Kansas City was leading 3-1 when Joey Gathright singled with one out in the seventh and David DeJesus was hit by a pitch. Both moved up on Contreras’ wild pitch, then Esteban German’s single brought in one run. After Mark Teahen was intentionally walked, Costa lashed a two-run single into right.
Bannister, who won for the fifth time in six starts, went six innings plus one batter. He struck out five and had a season-high four walks. Tadahito Iguchi doubled leading off the second and eventually scored on Juan Uribe’s infield out.
German had an RBI single in the third and Billy Butler and John Buck each drove in a run in the fourth. The Royals added two in the eighth off David Aardsma on RBI singles by DeJesus and Tony Pena Jr.
Bannister figures climbing over the White Sox would be no small feat for a franchise with one winning season in the past 15 years.
“I think it would be huge mentally. It’s a small little mental hurdle,” he said. “To most teams, it probably wouldn’t be that significant. But to us, I think it’s a big deal. For a bunch of young guys playing their hearts out right now, I think it’s a good short-term goal for us. The team’s right here in front of us. It’s a small little challenge for us to step up and win the series.”
Chicago OF Jermaine Dye missed his seventh straight game with strained left quadriceps. The White Sox were hoping he might be back in the outfield on Sunday. … The Royals have clinched their first winning month since July 2003. They had had 22 consecutive losing months. … The Royals lead the majors with 51 hit batsmen. … Before starting their four-game win streak, the White Sox lost five straight.