White-hot White Sox welcome struggling KC

White Sox

Reigning American League player of the week Jose Abreu is batting .475 (19-for-40) with nine home runs and 18 RBIs during a 10-game hitting streak.

Still, the first baseman has competition as the toughest challenge in a formidable Chicago White Sox lineup.

Left fielder Eloy Jimenez enters Friday’s series opener against the visiting Kansas City Royals batting .464 (13-for-28) with three home runs and seven RBIs during a seven-game hitting streak. In their most recent game, Wednesday’s 10-3 rout of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the White Sox drilled four home runs, marking the sixth time they have hit at least four in a game, a major league high.

“Anybody in the lineup can do damage or have the hit to win the ballgame,” Jimenez said. “I don’t care if I’m 0-for-4, because I know my teammates are going to respond for me. And when that happens for them, I try to respond for them. It’s good.”

The White Sox have won nine of 10 thanks in large part to such complementary instincts.

While the lineup leads the AL with 59 home runs in 31 games, Chicago starting pitchers have compiled a 2.60 ERA since July 29.

“Guys feeding off each other, coming to the ballpark coming to play,” left-hander Dallas Keuchel said.

The Royals are 3-7 in their last 10 games after sputtering to a 6-5 road loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday.

A vaunted bullpen surrendered four runs in the ninth inning while walking in the winning run, as the Royals fell to 9-1 when leading after eight innings.

“Our bullpen has been really good for us all year,” said outfielder Whit Merrifield, who had three hits in the loss. “These games, they happen to everybody. Throughout the course of the year, they happen. We’ve been fortunate that when we’ve had a lead late in a game, it hasn’t. We’ve ended up winning most of those games.”

As with Chicago, Kansas City enjoyed an off day Thursday, a needed respite before entering a stretch of playing on 17 successive days, including 10 at Kauffman Stadium.

“We have the off day to forget about it, then we have 17 in a row,” Merrifield said. “I don’t know the schedule by heart, but I think the majority of that is in division. So we’ve got a chance to make up some ground even though we’re not in a spot we want to be in.”

The Royals will aim to bounce back behind left-hander Danny Duffy (2-2, 3.99 ERA), who received two extra days of rest before Friday’s start after battling forearm fatigue. Duffy has won his past two starts, both against the Minnesota Twins, scattering three runs and six hits in 10 innings with three walks and 14 strikeouts.

Duffy is 10-6 with a 4.04 ERA in 25 career appearances against the White Sox, including 23 starts. Abreu is batting .321 in 56 at-bats against Duffy, while Tim Anderson (.344 in 32 at-bats) and Adam Engel (.467 in 15 at-bats) also have had success against him.

Right-hander Reynaldo Lopez (0-1, 13.50) is set to start for the White Sox. Lopez took a no-decision in a road start against the Chicago Cubs on Saturday after allowing one run on two hits in 3 1/3 innings with two walks and four strikeouts. Lopez retired the final seven hitters he faced and threw 50 pitches in his first outing since leaving during the first inning of a July 26 start with inflammation in his pitching shoulder.

Lopez is 4-3 with a 5.19 ERA in 12 career starts against the Royals. Kansas City’s Jorge Soler is batting .647 in 17 career at-bats against Lopez with three home runs and eight RBIs.

–Field Level Media

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