Vazquez shuts down Royals in opener
White Sox move back into first after extra-inning loss by Twins
CHICAGO -- For Tuesday's series opener between the White Sox and Royals, Kansas City catcher Miguel Olivo stayed on the bench, D.J. Carrasco remained situated in the White Sox bullpen, and just as manager Ozzie Guillen predicted long before this contest began, there was no carryover from the fisticuffs between the two teams during the game played at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday, Aug. 3.
In fact, Javier Vazquez pretty much took the fight out of the Royals from the first pitch.
The White Sox right-hander stymied Kansas City on five hits, striking out 10 and walking one in eight innings, as the South Siders cruised to a 9-0 whitewash before 31,099 at U.S. Cellular Field. It was quite a different display for Vazquez (9-10) as compared to his last eight starts, during which he posted a 1-5 record with a 5.88 ERA.
"I felt good," said Vazquez, after picking up his first home victory since June 17 against Pittsburgh. "I threw strikes, got ahead in the count. That's the combination you should have every time."
"He was great," Guillen added. "He has good enough stuff that when Javy pitches like that, well, you see the result."
During his pregame chat with the media, Guillen pointed to throwing strikes and getting ahead of hitters as the biggest keys for a Vazquez turnaround. Throwing 81 of his 109 pitches for strikes certainly allowed the right-hander to answer his manager's challenge.
Kansas City (54-65) posted Alex Gordon's triple in the second and Mike Aviles' double in the third off of Vazquez, but both came with two outs. Vazquez proceeded to hold the Royals hitless from that point until the seventh, when Jose Guillen and Ross Gload delivered singles. But John Buck grounded back to the mound to end the mini threat.
"You can stay mostly away from the big innings when you get the leadoff guy out, and I did that tonight," said Vazquez, who allowed one leadoff hitter to reach in eight innings, as he produced the 37th double-digit strikeout effort of his career and fourth this season.
"We needed a guy to go out and give us innings to save the bullpen, but hopefully it gives him confidence for the last month and a half," added White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski of Vazquez. "We need him to pitch like he did today."
All of the White Sox runs scored off of Brian Bannister (7-11) came via the home run. Jermaine Dye put the White Sox on the board in the first inning with his 28th long ball, scoring Orlando Cabrera ahead of him. Nick Swisher launched a solo shot in the fifth, his 17th, and Pierzynski added his 10th home run in the sixth.
"That's the only way we are going to win," said Guillen with a laugh, after watching his team raise its Major League-leading home run total to 168 and improve to 18-4 when homering at least three times. "This team is built around home run hitters. One thing about it, I always hope people are on base when we hit those home runs. That's the way you will add runs in this ballpark."
A relatively close contest turned into a White Sox blowout via their five-run rally off of Josh Newman in the eighth. Pierzynski and Dye, who each had two hits, drove in runs with bloop singles, while Brian Anderson came off the bench to add a run-scoring double to left.
Even Chris Getz, the utility infielder who joined the team on Sunday, came through with his first Major League hit and RBI. Getz, the one-time University of Michigan standout, came through off Newman, the former Ohio St. pitcher, on a 1-1 offering with two outs in the eighth. He stayed in the game and got to make a play at second base to end this affair in 2 hours, 13 minutes.
"When I came in and got my glove, I was running on the field and Jermaine was with me, and I told him that I hope I can throw the ball and I happened to get it," said Getz with a laugh, mentioning that he couldn't feel his legs when he rounded first after his single to right.
With the victory, the White Sox (66-52) improved to 5-3 on this 10-game homestand. They now stand atop the American League Central with Minnesota losing to New York in extra innings. This marks the fifth straight day with a new leader in the division.
Meanwhile, the White Sox threw no punches or purpose pitches inside to retaliate after Olivo charged the mound two Sundays ago and Zack Greinke later hit Swisher with a pitch and was ejected. Their best revenge was an easy victory to start this series.
"It's not about revenge. It's about winning games," Pierzynski said. "We don't care about revenge or any of that stuff. It's way overrated. We can't afford a fight and to lose someone or get someone suspended. We are in a pennant race, and that's the most important thing."
"All of that off the field stuff only can get you in trouble," Guillen added. "Believe me, I don't want anybody to get hurt. The last thing I want as a manager, when I leave here, is to say somebody got hurt because of me."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.