Many of us worried this would happen. Warm weather March batting averages crumbled into nothing more than dust in the frigid Chicago air as the Chicago What Sox, behind the brilliant Chris Sale, blanked the Kansas City Royals 1-0 Monday on Opening Day.
On the Mound
Don’t blame the new staff anchor for the loss. James Shields went 6 innings, giving up 8 hits, 4 of which were of the bloop variety. He struck out 6 and walked none. He surrendered one run when he grooved a fastball belt high to Sox catcher Tyler Flowers, and the young back stop promptly planted it in the left field stands. Shields threw 102 pitches while taking the undeserved loss. Shields pitched well but he did look to tire just as his pitch count rose. He was leaving some balls up in the strike zone but was only hurt by Flowers’ blast. Aaron Crow and Kelvin Herrera each pitched an inning, only allowing one base runner – a walk by Herrera – while combining for 3 strikeouts. It was a good day for Royals pitchers as the three pitchers only allowed 8 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 9, on the day.
At the Plate
Things were not as rosy for Kansas City hitters. They only mustered 7 hits, all against the White Sox tough, rangy left hander Sale, over his 7.2 innings of work. The Royals’ best chance at damaging Sale came in the 3rd inning when Jeff Francoeur led off the inning with a single. With one out, Alex Gordon walked, and Alcides Escobar singled, loading the bases for Billy Butler. The Royals DH did not look comfortable as he struck out. Mike Moustakas then popped out to second baseman Gordon Beckham in shallow right. Escobar and Francoeur each tallied two hits on the day but with a runner on second and two outs int he ninth, Francoeur swung at the first pitch from closer Addsison Reed, a ball low and outside, and weakly grounded to short to end the game. Francoeur, although he had two hits, only saw 9 pitches in his 4 plate appearances.
This and That
The announced temperature at game time was 44 degrees. After the hot conditions in the desert, it had to have seemed colder than that, especially to the hitters facing two terrific starting pitchers.
Chicago had to be thrilled with their newly extended ace. Sale signed a 5-year, $32.5 million extension on March 7th. He looked worth every penny on Monday. His stuff looked nasty. He threw hard with movement, then dropped pinpoint, off speed stuff on Royals hitters, leaving them searching for answers at the plate, or traipsing back to the dugout with a strikeout. The White Sox hitters were less than impressive themselves, coming up with only 8 hits of their own and half of those were unimpressive bloops. Only Flowers’ home run kept this game from going on for who knows how many innings as the bullpens were stingy on both sides as well.
Because of the annoying MLB perennial scheduling practice of giving everyone one who played Monday an off day on Tuesday, there is no game today. On Wednesday, the Royals will run Ervin Santana out to the bump for his Kansas City debut to face Jake Peavy for the White Sox. The game is set for a 1:10 start.
AL Central Notes
Detroit Tigers: Staff ace Justin Verlander, with the ink barely dry on his $28 million a year contract extension, pitched 5 scoreless innings to gain his first victory of the season over the Minnesota Twins. The Tigers won 4-2 with 2 hits each from Torii Hunter, Prince Fielder, Jhonny Peralta, and Omar Infante. Miguel Cabrera went 0-5.
Minnesota Twins: It was a tough Opening Day assignment for new Twin starter Vance Worley. He was welcomed to the AL by the Detroit Tigers. Worley gave up 3 runs in 6 decent innings, but his offense could not muster anything against Verlander. Joe Mauer was the only Twin who could deliver 2 hits on the day.