Sparkman (3-11, 5.97 ERA) will take the mound Wednesday for the Kansas City Royals as they face the Chicago White Sox in the second game of a three-game series. Reynaldo Lopez (9-12, 5.17) will get the start for the White Sox.
Both pitchers will be looking to keep the ball in the ballpark after the Royals and White Sox each hit three home runs in Chicago's 7-3 victory Tuesday night. The difference was that the White Sox had runners on base when they hit theirs and the Royals didn't.
Sparkman threw the first shutout of his career against the White Sox in Kansas City on July 16. He struck out eight and walked only one while allowing five hits.
But Sparkman has struggled ever since. In nine games, he has lost six straight decisions, producing an 8.32 ERA, a stretch that included a 6-4 loss to Detroit in his last start. He took a 3-1 lead into the fourth inning, but then he allowed three home runs in a span of four batters.
The long ball is not a new concern. Sparkman has served up 27 home runs this season, second most on the staff behind Jakob Junis, who gave up three homers Tuesday. Sparkman knows that needs to change in years to come.
"One hundred percent," he said. "I keep giving up these home runs, and I never really gave my team a chance to stay in the game. So it's tough."
Sparkman is 1-1 with a 3.24 ERA in three starts against the White Sox this season. He has no other decisions against the White Sox in his career, though his career ERA is 2.91 with three additional relief appearances.
Lopez will be facing the Royals for the fifth time this season. He's 2-1 with a 4.57 ERA in his first four starts. His four career wins (4-2, 4.71 ERA) against the Royals are his most against any team.
While Sparkman has been on a consistent slide, Lopez has been up and down all season. He hasn't lost more than two games in a row all season, but if he picks up a win Wednesday, he'll win his second straight for only the second time all season as well.
There is no better example than his last two starts. On Aug. 31 in Atlanta, he lasted just two-thirds of an inning, allowing six runs on six hits. But in his latest start, Thursday in Cleveland, he threw a complete-game one-hitter in a commanding 7-1 victory. He struck out 11 and walked three, reaching double-digit strikeouts for the third time this season.
Throwing 70 of his 109 pitches for strikes, Lopez finished off his first career complete game by retiring the last 16 Cleveland hitters he faced.
"All of it bears totally on execution," White Sox manager Rich Renteria said after Lopez's last start. "You miss with good hitters, they'll get you. Today, he really came out executing."
The Royals and White Sox are completing their season competition against each other, with the White Sox owning a 9-8 edge through the first 17 games.
--Field Level Media