|11:15 AM PT12:15 PM MT1:15 PM CT2:15 PM ET14:15 ET18:15 GMT2:15 11:15 AM MST1:15 PM EST1:45 PM VEN22:15 UAE12:15 PM CT, March 30, 2019
Ewing M. Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri Attendance: 13,533
Less pressure awaits White Sox, Royals for season's second game
Chicago White Sox at Kansas City Royals
- The White Sox and Royals will face off on Opening Day for the second straight year, after the White Sox won last year's opener, 14-7. The Sox won the season series, 11-8, after winning each of the first five road games against the Royals.
- Chicago finished 2018 with a 62-100 record, third worst in MLB just ahead of Kansas City at 58-104 and Baltimore at 47-115. It was the White Sox's fifth-worst record in franchise history and worst since a 56-106 campaign in 1970.
- The Royals' 58-104 record in 2018 was tied for their second worst in franchise history, just ahead of the 2005 season (56-106). They finished the year on a positive note, going 20-14 over the last 34 games of the season, holding opponents to just 4.2 runs per game.
- Jose Abreu played a career-low 128 games in 2018 but hit 22 home runs, his fifth consecutive season with 20+ homers. He is one of just six active players to hit at least 20 home runs in each of his first five MLB seasons.
- Brad Keller started 20 games as a rookie last season after entering the starting rotation in late May. He allowed just seven home runs in 140.1 innings for a 0.45 HR/9 rate, second best in MLB behind Jacob deGrom (minimum 125.0 innings pitched).
- Whit Merrifield led MLB in stolen bases last season with 45, the most in a single season by a Royal since Johnny Damon in 2000 (46). He also lead MLB in hits with 192, becoming the seventh player in history to lead the league in both hits and stolen bases and the first AL player to do so since Ichiro Suzuki in 2001.
- Bryant injured as Cubs blown out by Reds
- A's rout Mariners for ninth straight win
- Biggio hits first homer, Jays rip Padres
- BoSox top Astros' Verlander, avoid sweep
- Odorizzi helps hot Twins sweep White Sox
There's so much attention on opening day in Major League Baseball, the game itself sometimes gets overshadowed. That makes a strong effort in that setting even more impressive. Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Brad Keller pitched seven shutout innings to lead the Royals to a 5-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Thursday.
"(Opening day) is a big deal to our players," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "And it's a lot of extra stress on the starting pitcher. To do it for the first time in your career at his age (23) with his experience (MLB debut in 2018), to put forth the effort and the performance he put forth today is unbelievable.
"We kind of expected that from him because we expect him to be a legit No. 1 for us for years to come. It's a tough draw. He handled it beautifully.
Now, normalcy sets in for both teams. Following an off-day on Friday, Jakob Junis will grab the ball for the Royals on Saturday, while Reynaldo Lopez will take the mound for the White Sox.
Junis was 9-12 with a 4.37 ERA for the Royals last year. He won his last three and four of his last five after suffering through an eight-game losing streak.
Lopez was 7-10 with a 3.91 ERA last year for the White Sox. But he won three of his last four decisions, and he did not give up more than two earned runs in his last seven starts. He's ready for his 2019 debut.
"I'm probably more confident this year, based off the results that I got last year," Lopez said through an interpreter. "But at the same time, I'm eager and hungry this year to do more, to do better, to keep improving.
"I think I did a pretty good job with my curveball in spring training. I feel more comfortable. I was able to command it better and to throw it for a strike. I feel very comfortable with that pitch right now and I think that will be one of my key pitches for this year."
The key for Lopez is to keep the Royals off the bases. Kansas City is built on speed and defense. When the Royals have runners on, it can be difficult for the pitcher to focus on the batter.
"That's who we are," Yost said. "And you didn't see it today. You saw some of it, you didn't see what you're going to see this year."
What was seen Thursday was a pair of triples by Royals shortstop Adalberto Mondesi, just the second time a Royals player did that on opening day. The Royals also stole two bases -- both by Whit Merrifield -- who led the majors in stolen bases last season. They'll look to keep up that pace on Saturday.
"It's kind of a flash of what we can do," Merrifield said. "Anytime Mondi hits the ball in the gap here, it's going to be a triple. You saw that today.
"This was just a little bit of what we expect from the top of the lineup. Guys like myself and Mondi drive balls in the gap and (get) on and find ways to score runs. We did enough today to win."
Both clubs get to take a breath and regroup Friday. Then the real regular season gets started.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 29, 2019