The Chicago White Sox come to Kansas City for the final time this season knowing that if they have a strong series they will have one foot in the playoffs, but a weak one could open the playoff race back up. The 66-80 Kansas City Royals may not look like the most formidable of opponents, but they are a team with whom the White Sox have struggled this year. The Royals have won ten of 15 games against Chicago this year and are 7-2 against the White Sox since the start of August.
Facing them in the first game of the series is one of the most baffling pitchers in baseball: Luke Hochevar. Talented and unhittable on his day, Hochevar has never found a way to consistently perform. A month ago against the Tampa Bay Rays he allowed just one hit in eight scoreless innings. (He didn’t get the win, however, as the Royals needed a tenth inning to break the scoreless deadlock.) But more recently he has struggled badly, the nadir being the eight runs he conceded in under two innings against the Minnesota Twins on the first of this month. Those contrasting starts are typical not only of his season, but his entire career. But, like the Royals as a team, he has done well against the White Sox. He is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA against Chicago this season.
Facing Hochevar will be Gavin Floyd. Floyd has not had a spectacular season, though neither has he struggled. He has had some problems recently, however, and has not gone five innings in a start since the middle of August. He has an ERA of 7.00 since then. The Royals bats have not exactly been hot lately, but they have put up decent numbers over the course of winning three of their last six and might very well fancy themselves against Floyd tonight. If they can get to him early then it should be a very good night indeed.
And of course they may need to make it a good night. Whilst Hochevar might come up with one of his good performances, there is every chance that the bats will have to carry him as they did last week. The first three innings may be decisive; the Royals have a very good record when scoring first, so if Hochevar can hold it together long enough for his hitters to get to Floyd then the Royals will like their chances. But if the hitters can’t get to Floyd or Hochevar gives it away early then the White Sox will be strong favorites.