In a sport that measures excellence by success in three times out of every 10 plate appearances, a short memory in baseball isn't only encouraged, it's almost a prerequisite. If the Chicago White Sox were battling an unwelcomed case of déjà vu on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium, though, it would be hard to blame them.
As the Kansas City Royals marched towards a three-game sweep of the White Sox, the conclusion felt inevitable. The South Siders had been here before. Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie was brilliant in the series finale, just as he had been against Chicago two weeks prior. This was a senseless development, the type the sport of baseball seems to specialize in.
Guthrie, a well-traveled 33-year old right-hander, established himself as one of the least impressive starters in baseball over the course of 19 appearances with the Colorado Rockies to begin the 2012 season. He had a penchant for surrendering home runs (21 in 90.2 innings), walked nearly as many as he struck out and boasted a WHIP of 1.69. Those are not good periphery statistics, and it manifested itself in a 3-9 record with a 6.35 ERA. Guthrie's WAR in Colorado was a toxic -.05.
He wasn't much better in his re-introduction to the American League this season, either. Guthrie had allowed 14 earned runs in his first three starts since being acquired by the Royals heading into that fateful August 8 contest vs. the Sox. With Chicago in a thick of a pennant race with the Detroit Tigers, these were not games that could afford to be taken for granted. In baseball, sometimes there's nothing you can do about it.
Guthrie went eight innings on Aug. 8, scattering only five hits without allowing a run. He struck out six while walking none on the way to gifting Kansas City a 2-1 victory. As Guthrie took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Sox on Sunday, Chicago hitters had to wonder why this decidedly unimpressive starter was saving his black magic specifically for them.
The White Sox would get a hit off Guthrie, though even the first one wasn't pure. The home scorer at Kauffman Stadium inexplicably broke up Guthrie's no-no by giving Paul Konerko a hit on a seventh inning single that was bobbled by first baseman Eric Hosmer. It very easily could have been ruled an error. If this was the only blemish separating Guthrie from history, there might have been a riot in the streets of KC, assuming anyone was paying attention.
It felt like the only way Chicago was going to conquer their Kansas City terrors was with an unexpected bit of luck, but even that couldn't prevent the unavoidable. Dewayne Wise drilled a single that went through Hosmer's hands at first in the eight inning, knotting the score at 2-2 and ruining Guthrie's decision was another stellar outing against Chicago.
Chicago's brief hope wasn't meant to last. The White Sox bullpen walked three in the bottom of the eighth. Each runner would come around to score. Kansas City 5, Chicago 2, and the White Sox had been swept for the second time this season. They were now 4-8 against the Royals, a clear blotch in an otherwise enjoyable season on the South Side.
The good news for the White Sox is that they didn't lose much ground in the division during their six-game road trip, which the team would end 2-4. Baltimore was able to take two of three from the Tigers at Comerica Park, meaning the two-game lead Chicago held before the road trip was reduced only by a half-game. If Chicago is going to make the postseason and outlast Detroit, though, they better figure out how to beat Kansas City. There are still six games left versus these pests, and Robin Ventura's team truly cannot continue its dismal streak against one of the peons of the AL.
Baseball is a sport chalk full of idiosyncrasies; in a sport that requires so much luck for success both sustained and brief, the explainable is occasionally inescapable. Perhaps it's best to throw your hands up in the air and admit defeat when it comes to the Sox's problems vs. the Royals. Things certainly won't get any easier to start this week, as the South Siders welcome the New York Yankees, the top team in the American League, to U.S. Cellular Field for a three-game set.
The bumps and bruises are starting to add up for Chicago, another inevitable symptom of baseball's 162-game marathon. Kevin Youkilis has a balky knee, Paul Konerko is easing his way back from a minor concussion. The same pitchers that have been dependable for Chicago all season might be battling a case of tired arms. These things happen for every team. It's those that are able to internally mine for a second wind that reap the rewards.
As the Orioles defeated Detroit on Sunday, a tweet from a fake Kenny Williams account appear on across my social media feeds.
The approach of football season also means it's about to be 'magic number' season. For a White Sox campaign that has been as pleasant as any since 2006, there's only a month and half left to navigate before things really start getting serious. The White Sox have a very real opportunity, and that's all you can ask for.