CHICAGO -- Jeremy Guthrie continues to baffle the Chicago White Sox and the Kansas City Royals are thankful for it.
The Royals (1-2) avoided being swept by Chicago (2-1) in a season-opening three-game series at U.S. Cellular Field on Thursday afternoon with a 3-1 victory with behind Guthrie's six strong innings.
"He's just a good pitcher," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He's going to match up good against anybody, because he commands the ball, he changes speeds, moves it in and out (and) keeps the ball down. He's very smart (and) he has the ability to make adjustments. It's not just the Sox. He's going to be able to match up against most every team in this league."
Alex Gordon (2-for-4, RBI), Jarrod Dyson and Chris Getz (1-for-3) drove in all three Royals runs in the fifth inning against White Sox starter Gavin Floyd (0-1), who took the loss despite posting a quality start through six innings. Kansas City finally got some clutch hitting in that inning, which they'd lacked in the first two games of the season-opening series, but the story of the day was Guthrie (1-0).
The control-oriented right-hander came into the game with an extended run of dominance against Chicago ever since Kansas City picked him up in a trade last July with Colorado. Guthrie made four starts against the Sox last season and earned one win to go with three no decisions. He also had a 0.30 ERA in 29-2/3 innings and threw a pair of eight-inning shutout performances in this stadium.
His mastery of the Sox continued in this game. Guthrie struck out nine, walked just one and allowed only one run.
"I've never had a mastery over any team," Guthrie said, smiling. "I've had quite a few that had a good mastery over me, so I'll (just) take it day by day. Spring training was important for me. The first few starts I kind of felt like I was trying to find a groove and the last few I felt good about where I was."
It showed on Thursday afternoon.
Guthrie departed after six innings and left a 3-1 lead to protect. The Royals bullpen didn't let him down, as Aaron Crow worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the seventh before Kelvin Herrera pitched a scoreless eighth and Greg Holland picked up the save despite allowing the tying runs to get aboard with two outs in the ninth.
Floyd allowed three runs (two earned) during his six innings for Chicago, but Kansas City scored all three runs on three hits and a walk in the fifth. The Sox were led offensively by Gordon Beckham's 4-for-4 performance (four singles) and catcher Tyler Flowers continuing his hot start. Flowers got a single, drew two walks and scored the Sox's lone run in the fifth after getting hit by a pitch and taking third on Beckham's single. Alejandro De Aza drove him in during the next at-bat, but that was all Chicago's lineup could generate a day after clubbing four home runs.
"It happens every once in a while," Flowers said of the inability to manufacture more runs. "It's not fun, but it seemed like we had quality at bats for most of the day. Tip your hat to Guthrie. He's a pretty good pitcher."
"It's definitely not the end of the world," he said. "We feel good about what we're doing. To score runs, usually you've got to have ‘em in scoring position and it will come. We just haven't strung a lot of hits together."
Both starters were in control through four scoreless innings and had 11 combined strikeouts. Floyd fanned five and Guthrie whiffed six, including two each in the first, second and fourth innings.
The only real trouble for Guthrie in the early going came in the third, when Flowers walked with one out and advanced to third on a Beckham single. The Royals starter negated the threat quickly by getting Alejandro De Aza to ground into an inning ending double play the very next at bat.
Floyd didn't run into too much trouble until the fifth, when Yost called for a hit-and-run with one out, Jeff Francouer up and lumbering Eric Hosmer on first. It worked to perfection, as Francouer singled to right, Hosmer went to third and wound up scoring the game's first run on Jarrod Dyson's fielder's choice grounder. Getz and Gordon then followed with RBI singles for a 3-0 lead.
"I was in the hole and Ned said, 'If (Hosmer) gets on, we might try to hit and run,'" Francouer said. "I said, 'Why not? Nothing else has worked.' We saw Beckham do it earlier (for the Sox) and it ignited us a little bit."
NOTES: The White Sox were 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position in the series. ... According to STATS, Tyler Flowers joined Sherm Lollar (1958) as the only catchers in White Sox history to homer in each of the first two games of a season. Flowers is also the first White Sox player to homer in the season's first two games since Paul Konerko did it in 2010 and first Major League catcher to do it since Atlanta's Brian McCann did in 2007. ... All six runs the Sox scored in the first two games came via five home runs. ... Kansas City's Alex Gordon (1-for-7), Billy Butler (1-for-7), Mike Moustakas (1-for-8) and Eric Hosmer (1-for-7) came into the game a combined 4-for-29 (.138) and went a combined 2-for-13 with four strikeouts on Thursday. ...
Royals catcher Salvador Perez, a 22-year-old top prospect in the organization, is off to a good start at the plate with hits in each of the first three games, including a double on Thursday.