(Sports Network) - After falling into second place in the American League Central standings with a rough stretch over the past few weeks, the Chicago White Sox hope a series of games against the non-contending Kansas City Royals will enable the struggling club to gain some ground in the race.
Chicago enters tonight's opener of this three-game set at Kauffman Stadium having lost eight of its last 11 contests, which has dropped Ozzie Guillen's squad to four games back of first-place Minnesota in the division. The Twins were able to extend that margin by taking two of three bouts between the teams in Minneapolis earlier in the week.
The White Sox did claim Thursday's finale of that series in dominating fashion, however, pounding out a season-best 21 hits and receiving an outstanding start out of Mark Buehrle to rout the Twins by an 11-0 score.
Paul Konerko led the offensive onslaught with a 5-for-5, four-RBI performance that included the first baseman's 31st home run of the season. Alexei Ramirez and Mark Teahen each contributed three hits and two RBI for Chicago, with Ramirez also going deep in the win.
The White Sox battered Minnesota ace Carl Pavano for 15 hits and seven runs over the game's first six innings.
"We were just trying to get hits," said catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who finished 2-for-5 and also knocked in a pair of runs. "[Pavano] has pitched well against us in the past. He's real good at nibbling and getting you to swing at bad pitches. So [Thursday] we tried to get the ball up and we hit it well."
Chicago didn't need all that scoring, with Buehrle (12-9) yielding just five hits and a walk before exiting after seven innings and his team holding a comfortable 7-0 lead.
The White Sox hope to get a similar lift tonight out of Edwin Jackson, who's performed quite well since returning to the AL. The former Rays and Tigers right-hander has allowed just four runs -- three earned -- over a combined 20 innings in three starts following his late-July trade from the Arizona Diamondbacks to Chicago.
Jackson was especially impressive his most recent time out, as the 2009 All- Star racked up 11 strikeouts in seven innings Saturday against Detroit and held his former team to a run on five hits. He wound up without a decision, however, when the Tigers scored twice against closer J.J. Putz in the ninth to move ahead.
The 26-year-old also had a tough-luck no-decision in an August 9 assignment at Baltimore, a game where he permitted two runs -- one earned -- and struck out seven through six innings.
Jackson is 3-3 with a 5.03 earned run average over six starts and one relief appearance lifetime against Kansas City, but lost two of his three matchups with the Royals while a member of the Tigers last season.
Kansas City isn't thinking about the postseason at the moment, but the team will have to quickly put its latest result behind it. The Royals were in position to sweep a three-game series from visiting Cleveland, but the Indians rallied for five runs in the eighth inning and two more in the ninth to come through with a 7-3 verdict on Thursday.
Royals starter Kyle Davies took a shutout into the top of the eighth, but surrendered three consecutive one-out singles that brought the Tribe within 3-1. Blake Wood (1-3) then took over and gave up two hits, including Shin-Soo Choo's go-ahead single, and a walk while registering just one out. The reliever was charged with two of Kansas City's five runs allowed during the pivotal inning.
"It always stings when you play a game like that and you lose it late." manager Ned Yost remarked on the Royals' official site.
The Royals will be sending out a midseason acquisition of their own tonight in Sean O'Sullivan, with the former Angel taking another stab at a first win in a Kansas City uniform. The stocky right-hander has really struggled since being traded from Anaheim to the Royals on July 22, having compiled an 0-4 record and a subpar 6.75 ERA in five starts.
O'Sullivan has been hit hard in each of his past two mound trips, including Saturday's 8-3 home setback to the New York Yankees in which he served up three homers and was tagged for four runs on eight hits over 5 1/3 innings. Five days earlier, the 22-year-old allowed six runs and 10 hits through 6 1/3 frames in losing to his ex-Anaheim teammates on August 9.
The young hurler also lost in his only previous start against Chicago, which took place during August of last season while still with the Angels. O'Sullivan worked five innings in that game and was touched for four runs on six hits.
The White Sox have prevailed in seven of 12 meetings between these divisional foes so far this season, but have dropped two of three tilts in each of their two previous visits to Kauffman Stadium in 2010. Chicago is just 2-6 over its last eight games played with the Royals in Kansas City.