'Onto Wrigley': White Sox drop finale 

August 6th, 2021

CHICAGO -- The White Sox came a few feet away from shutting out the Royals during Thursday night’s series finale at Guaranteed Rate Field.

But even for a team sitting at 63-46, with a significant 9 1/2 game lead in the American League Central, the breaks don’t always go your way. Kansas City ultimately claimed a 3-2 victory over the South Siders, giving the Royals a series win, and evening the season series at 8-8.

“This one will stay with me for a little bit,” said White Sox starting and losing pitcher Dallas Keuchel, who has won only once since June 15. “We value wins more than anything in this game. We've got to take that game, and it started with me. Onto Wrigley and, hopefully, we can do some good there."

“Today, he pitched really well and it’s just all our guys pitched well,” manager Tony La Russa said. “We are just having trouble stringing hits together. We just gotta fix that.”

Kansas City (47-60) scored two runs in the first off Keuchel (7-5) after the first two hitters were retired rather easily. Salvador Perez singled, Hunter Dozier walked and Emmanuel Rivera roped a line drive to center with a 107.8 mph exit velocity, per Statcast, which turned around Adam Engel and fell to the right of him to score the two.

It was a rare defensive miscue for a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder, who might have lost Rivera’s line drive in the lights.

“I heard him say it. I think he lost it for a minute,” said La Russa of Engel. “But you play nine innings like this and that costs two runs -- that shouldn’t be the ballgame.”

Edward Olivares launched a solo home run to right-center in the seventh, which originally looked as if it was going to be one of Engel’s patented spectacular home run stealing grabs. Engel got the ball in the tip of his glove but could not hold on as it fell over the wall.

Engel just missed a grand slam in the fourth, pulling a ball foul down the left field line against Royals starter Daniel Lynch (2-3). After the near-miss, Engel struck out to end the frame.

In the sixth, the White Sox put two runners on with nobody out. But Andrew Vaughn’s hard-hit grounder to third turned into a double play, and first baseman Carlos Santana took a hit from Yoán Moncada to end the rally with José Abreu on third as the game-tying run.

Abreu homered for the White Sox, giving him solo homers in consecutive days and seven seasons in his eight-year career with at least 20 long balls. His 218th career homer moved him within four of passing Harold Baines (221) for third on the all-time franchise list.

Yet, there shouldn’t be much worry for the division leaders even in the midst of these struggles.

Luis Robert, sidelined since May 2 with a right hip flexor tear, homered and had three RBIs in his latest injury rehab game for Triple-A Charlotte on Thursday night. Robert should be back in center field sometime during this upcoming week.

After allowing nine runs in his last 11 1/3 innings over two starts, Keuchel yielded only the two in six innings Thursday with five strikeouts.

“Tonight felt really, really, really good,” Keuchel said. “Just kind of sucks to see a loss next to your name and going out there and doing everything you possibly can. That's just the way it is sometimes. I'll be right back at it in five days, so, hopefully, when my turn comes up, we can get another win."

The White Sox are 9-11 since the All-Star break, including a 2-5 ledger against the Royals. Yet, their lead in the American League Central has jumped from eight games over the Indians to the current 9 1/2 since July 16. They remain the only team over .500 in the division, with their sights set more on getting fully healthy and prepared for October than anything else.

They also have scored three runs or less in 12 of their 20 games since the break, and they have won just two of those 12.

“We are just chasing too many,” said La Russa of his team’s rising strikeout total, with nine on Thursday.

“It's just the way the game goes sometimes,” Keuchel said. “It's going to sting for a little bit and we've got a quick turnaround tomorrow. Hopefully, we can get a few wins out here."