Royals’ focus on stopping White Sox starts with Robert

Sports

Luis Robert has wowed White Sox fans in Chicago, but appreciation of his talents doesn’t stop there.

The White Sox center fielder will look to continue his strong rookie season Saturday when Chicago plays the second game of a four-game road series against the Kansas City Royals.

Robert, who debuted this season, is perhaps the leading candidate to win the American League Rookie of the Year award. He is batting .277 with a .920 OPS. He also has 11 home runs and 27 RBIs in 37 games, numbers that convert to 48 home runs and 118 RBIs over 162 games. He has thrown in four stolen bases, which converts to 18 over 162 games.

Count the manager whose squad has to figure out how to contain him this weekend among his admirers.

“That’s an impressive player,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “I didn’t get a lot of looks at him before, but scouting him out preparing for the first time we played these guys, who is this guy and where did he come from? He’s the real deal.”

And while the offensive numbers are impressive, Matheny is equally impressed with Robert’s defense.

“Watching him (Thursday) night,” he said, “he’s an impressive player. It’s the little things, the way he goes down the line, how well he moves for as big as he is. I can see why White Sox fans are excited about having him on their club.”

The White Sox have won the first two games of the series heading into Saturday’s game. They are 7-1 against the Royals with two games remaining in the season series.

Chicago will rely on Lucas Giolito (3-2, 3.14 ERA) to continue his strong season. Giolito fired a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Aug. 25, but his ensuing start Monday vs. the Minnesota Twins wasn’t great. He gave up four runs (two earned) on four hits in five innings.

In his past three outings, Giolito has racked 34 strikeouts while yielding only seven hits and three walks. He ranks second in the AL with 66 strikeouts.

After seeing his ERA balloon to 6.13 in 2018, he is proving that his 14-9 record with a 3.41 ERA last season was no fluke.

“He certainly has made a tremendous number of changes since 2018,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “Obviously he understood that there were things he needed to do in order to improve himself. He’s very motivated and self-driven. He’s a bright young man as well.

“What he’s continued to do to build off last year is that he has a goal, and that’s to be the best pitcher he can be. He was an Al-Star last year and he wants to continue to rise to that. He’s thinking more about how he can help this club win ball games.”

Giolito says he’s enjoying the process.

“This is the most fun I’ve ever had playing baseball, not even close,” Giolito said. “But the work’s not finished. We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing. The preparation is there, the confidence is there. We just keep it rolling.”

The challenge of slowing down Robert and the rest of the robust White Sox lineup falls at the feet of Kris Bubic (0-4, 5.46 ERA).

The rookie left-hander wound up with a no-decision against the White Sox last Sunday despite pitching well. He allowed two runs on six hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings. He fanned eight, the top total of his young career.

Matheny thinks the 23-year-old is close to getting his first win.

“It’s just a matter of the right timing of us scoring enough runs for us,” Matheny said. “A lot like we’ve talked about with our club: We have to be real honest with ourselves when we’re playing the game the right way. Kris needs to do that, too — what can I control to get better? Then trust the results. The end product of that win is going to be there. I think he’s going to have a bunch of them in his career.

“It could be the best thing that ever happens for him to have to work so hard for that first win.”

–Field Level Media

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