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Royals, White Sox await word on shortstops ahead of series opener

Sportsnaut
Jul 24, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. (7) watches play against the Tampa Bay Rays from the dugout in the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Royals hope a potential injury to star rookie shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. doesn’t offset the momentum gained from one of their most exciting wins of the season when they open a three-game road series against the Chicago White Sox on Monday night.

The American League Central rivals will meet for the ninth time this season, with the last-place Royals and third-place White Sox each winning four games.

Both teams enter this series off a win.

Chicago won on Saturday and Sunday at home over the Oakland Athletics to earn a series victory after the A’s won 7-3 in Friday’s opener.

The Royals, meanwhile, needed an 8-6 victory Sunday to avoid a four-game sweep at the hands of the host New York Yankees. Salvador Perez’s three-run homer in the ninth inning turned what could have been a sixth straight loss into a dramatic win.

The ninth-inning rally included a scary moment when Witt was hit in the right hand by a Clay Holmes pitch. He had to leave the game.

There was no immediate word on Witt’s status for the Chicago series. He had just returned from a five-game absence on Saturday while dealing with a hamstring injury.

Witt went just 1-for-8 over the weekend, including a four-strikeout outing Saturday that he blamed on the time off.

“I was just overanalyzing it,” he said of his at-bats. “I just wasn’t going out there having fun and being myself. I was not at my best.”

With or without Witt, the Royals will go for a second straight win with the AL’s losingest pitcher, right-hander Brad Keller (5-11, 4.18 ERA), getting the start.

Keller went 3-2 in July with a 3.77 ERA, but he is coming off consecutive losses to the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Angels, games during which he allowed seven earned runs in 10 innings.

The 27-year-old has pitched twice against the White Sox this season and has performed well in both, limiting Chicago to a total of four runs and 11 hits in 14 innings. Each team won one of the games, with Keller not getting a decision in either.

Familiarity shouldn’t be an issue. Keller has faced the White Sox more than any other team in his career, going 5-5 with a 3.34 ERA in 18 head-to-heads, 15 of which have been starts.

The White Sox are expected to counter with fellow righty Michael Kopech (4-6, 3.16), who would like nothing better than to follow in the footsteps of Saturday and Sunday starters Johnny Cueto and Dylan Cease. They combined to limit the A’s to 10 hits and three runs over 13 innings in consecutive wins.

Kopech went head-to-head with Keller on April 28 in Chicago, a game the Royals won 5-2. Kopech left trailing 2-1 after five innings but did not get a decision.

He has faced the Royals eight times in his career, twice as a starter, without a win or a loss and a 4.58 ERA.

Like the Royals, the White Sox aren’t sure about the status of their shortstop, Tim Anderson, for the series opener while he appeals a three-game suspension handed down Saturday for bumping umpire Nick Mahrley on Friday.

The appeal might be held Monday, and if so, Anderson seems to have manager Tony La Russa on his side.

“Did you see how the interaction happened?” La Russa asked reporters over the weekend. “The way we see it, there’s an argument to be made that the umpire didn’t move back. He was moving forward as well.”

–Field Level Media