(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 will get two cracks at the Royals tonight after Friday's opener was rained out. The White Sox enters this three-game set at Kauffman Stadium having lost eight of their last 11 contests, which has dropped Ozzie Guillen's squad to 4 1/2 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 Freddy Garcia, who is slated to start the first game of the doubleheader. The right-hander is looking to get back on track after going 1-2 with an 8.44 ERA over his past five starts. In his last start on Sunday, Garcia was tagged for five earned runs and eight hits in five innings of a 13-8 loss to Detroit.
Garcia has made 26 career starts against the Royals, going 9-3 with a 5.91 ERA. He snapped a seven-game losing skid against them with a 9-2 victory on May 5th, allowing two earned runs and 10 hits over six innings of work.
Chicago has not officially announced a starter for the second bout.
Opposing Garcia and Chicago in the opening contest will be Philip Humber, who is making his second career start and first since 2007. The right-hander made is only appearance this season out of the bullpen, tossing two shutout innings against the Angels on August 10th.
Humber, who has allowed three earned runs in two career appearances versus the White Sox, has yet to record a decision in 19 major league outings.
Bryan Bullington will follow for the Royals in the second game and he is coming off his first major league win. A former No.1 overall draft pick, Bullington tossed eight scoreless innings in a 1-0 victory over the Yankees on Sunday. He allowed just two hits while striking out five.
The right-hander has made three career appearances against the White Sox, going 0-1 with a 2.57 ERA.
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.