Monday, April 6, 2015

Samardzija finds rough going in opener

Yordano Ventura threw six-plus strong innings and Alex Rios delivered a three-run homer to cap a five-run seventh inning as the Royals eased past the White Sox, 10-1, on Monday before a sellout crowd of 40,085 at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals appeared to have avoided a scare when Ventura left after facing two batters in the seventh and went to the ground in severe pain while holding his right hand. Royals official later diagnosed the injury as a thumb cramp and do not consider it serious. More »
Rios, in his debut for the Royals, also had two singles and a stolen base. Mike Moustakas also homered for the Royals.
"It's just one game, but he did this all spring long," Royals manager Ned Yost said of Rios. "You read all the national people say that Kendrys Morales and Rios are downgrades for us -- yeah, if you go by last year and they were hurt. But we feel strongly about these guys bouncing back for us and it's good to see [Rios] get off to a good start."
Jose Abreu got the White Sox on the board in the seventh inning with a 418-foot homer to left-center. But the White Sox had a forgettable start in a season with high expectations based on their offseason maneuvers.
"I haven't been around here very long, but from what I've seen and even being in the National League and watching enough games, we've got some guys that can play," White Sox designated hitter Adam LaRoche said. "So, it's not going to be sloppy baseball. You will have your games absolutely, but once we get rolling, we'll be fine."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Ventura bears down: The White Sox had the game's first threat when Conor Gillaspie doubled, sending Avisail Garcia to third with two out in the second inning. But Ventura set up catcher Tyler Flowers with a 97-mph heater, then got Flowers chasing on two offspeed pitches for a strikeout, ending the inning. Ventura was sharp all day -- he gave up just four hits and one run in six-plus innings while walking one and striking out two.
"I came into spring really confident, having worked a lot on all the pitches," Ventura said through interpreter Jeremy Guthrie. "I thought going through Spring Training I was getting to a place where I was really comfortable with all the pitches. If felt great for me, and I just want to be able to continue with it."
That will leave a mark: Jeff Samardzija walked Morales twice during his White Sox debut but also hit two Royals. He plunked Alex Gordon in the second with Morales on first, after Garcia was hit by Ventura in the top of the second. The right-hander then hit Lorenzo Cain in the fifth, on the ensuing pitch after Mike Moustakas drove out an opposite-field homer. Cain took exception to that HBP, jawing with Samardzija and catcher Flowers.
Cain wasn't sure what happened.
"All I know is that Moose hit a homer, [Samardzija] hit me," Cain said, "... and then we started talking."
Moustakas was about to lead a brigade of Royals players out of the dugout.
"Just the heat of the moment," Moustakas said. 
The new guys make their mark: While Rios had an exceptional day in his Royals debut with three hits, Morales also showed plenty of patience. Morales walked three times (one intentional) and scored twice in his Royals debut, replacing Billy Butler as the designated hitter. Morales also doubled.
"I hit mine pretty well," Rios said. "I didn't know it was gone right away because it's a big ballpark. I liked it. But actually I liked Moose's better -- opposite-field homer here, that's tough to do." More »
Memorable debut: There was a little bit of everything involved in the Major League debut for Micah Johnson. His first at-bat was a 13-pitch battle against Ventura in the third, which resulted in a line out to center. Johnson's first career hit came leading off the sixth on a single to center, but he was picked off first two throws later by Ventura.
"He did well, he didn't give in. He was getting frustrated and we were just battling," said Johnson of the 13-pitch at-bat against Ventura. "It was awesome. He just kept pounding me in and throwing strikes. I didn't want to cheat and have him throw me an offspeed pitch and be out in front. I just stayed with my approach and he stuck with his. It was a battle, but yeah, good at-bats today. "
QUOTABLE
"This game probably will be analyzed more than any other game of the year. But that's just baseball. It happens every year. Obviously, not the way we wanted to start it up. The key is to shake that one off and come right back out Wednesday ready to go." -- LaRoche, on the team's rough 2015 debut.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Abreu entered his seventh inning at-bat against Ventura with a 3-for-25 lifetime ledger at Kauffman Stadium. Make it 4-for-26, as he launched a 418-foot blast to left leading off the frame.
Too soon?
In the second inning, Royals third-base coach Mike Jirschele held Rios at third, though it looked like Rios could have scored on Salvador Perez's double. That, of course, brought back memories of Game 7 of the World Series when Jirschele held Gordon at third in the ninth inning (a smart move, most agreed). But Royals fans howled at Jirschele's decision Monday and Twitter was unkind as well. Rios, like Gordon in Game 7, wound up stranded at third.
WHAT'S NEXT
Royals: Left-hander Danny Duffy will get the start for the Royals in a 7:10 p.m CT start Wednesday against the White Sox at Kauffman Stadium. Duffy was 2-4 last year at Kauffman, posting a 2.67 ERA. Duffy is 2-1 with a 3.24 career ERA against the White Sox. The game is available on MLB Gameday Audioand MLB.TV's Free Game of the Day.
White Sox: Jose Quintana begins his fourth season as part of the White Sox rotation, so it's hard to describe the southpaw as an underrated quality starter at this point. He has worked at least 200 innings in each of the last two seasons. The game is available on MLB Gameday Audio and MLB.TV's Free Game of the Day.

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