White Sox

Kansas City Special: White Sox complete sweep, beat Royals

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Kansas City Special: White Sox complete sweep, beat Royals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Their odds are nearly impossible and they haven’t got out of their own way but the 2015 White Sox refuse to die.

Erik Johnson pitched six strong innings in his return to the majors and the White Sox produced throughout as they completed a series sweep of the Kansas City Royals with a 7-5 victory at Kauffman Stadium. Adam Eaton homered and finished 3-for-5 while Jose Abreu drove in two runs for the White Sox, who have won four straight. The sweep was the first by the White Sox in Kansas City since August 2013 and allows them to still register a pulse in terms of the postseason picture, miniscule as it may be.

“It’s good to take three from a very, very good team,” Eaton said. “It shows kind of our inconsistency this year. We come in and beat the best team, come in and play them tough and win all three. We’ve got to be more consistent. This last month of the season we’ve got to empty whatever is left in the tank.”

The reality is the White Sox are running on fumes and have been for weeks now. Sunday’s win moved them within six games of the Texas Rangers, who are on pace for 85 victories and currently are in possession of the final playoff spot.

At 65-70, the White Sox need a 20-7 run to the finish -- something they’ve proven incapable of time and again -- to have an outside shot at the second wild-card spot.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

“We are the streakiest team I’ve ever been on in my life,” closer David Robertson said. “We go from winning five or six to losing five or six. I don’t know why.”

Offense has been a primary force behind the team’s most recent winning ways.

Since they trailed the Minnesota Twins 4-1 midway through Thursday’s victory, the White Sox have outscored their opponents 30-7.

They didn’t wait as long on Sunday against Royals starter Johnny Cueto and kept adding throughout, including a critical run in the ninth.

[MORE: 'Proud moment' for Johnson in his return to mound with White Sox]

Eaton singled, Alexei Ramirez doubled and Abreu singled to make it 1-0 in the first inning. After Melky Cabrera walked to load the bases, Avisail Garcia singled in two more to give the White Sox a three-run advantage.

Adam LaRoche singled in a run in the third inning to make it a 4-1 game and Rob Brantly’s sac fly made it 5-1.

Eaton blasted a solo homer in the sixth inning, his 12th, to go up by five runs.

“Any time we jump out there, we seem to swing the bats a little better if we get it in the first inning,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Today, I thought Eaton did a great job of starting it off with a base hit, and guys kept going. I don’t know if Cueto had his best stuff today, but you have to take advantage of it when you can.”

Johnson made the most of his run support to earn his first win in the majors since April 20, 2014.

He allowed three solo homers in six innings, including two in his final frame, but only allowed five men to reach base. The Royals came back to life against Jake Petricka in the seventh inning and scored twice more until Matt Albers got out of the jam with a 6-5 lead.

“You can kind of feel the momentum change there,” Eaton said.  

But the White Sox stole it back.

Zach Duke struck out the middle of Kansas City’s order in a 1-2-3 eighth inning. Eaton doubled to start the ninth and scored on Abreu’s sac fly to extend the lead to two runs.

Now they have to hope the momentum gained this weekend can turn them into the consistent team they’ve failed to be for the first 135 games.

“Hopefully we can continue to win,” Robertson said. “You never know. There’s still a chance for us to sneak in there. As long as we have the opportunity, we have to keep fighting and keep trying.”

Dylan Covey attempting to right the ship via mechanics and mentality

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USA TODAY

Dylan Covey attempting to right the ship via mechanics and mentality

It was only a couple of months ago that Dylan Covey had an earned-run average of 2.22 and was being touted as a possible future stalwart in the White Sox rotation.

Fast forward to the present, when the 27-year-old right-hander is sitting on a four-game losing skid and sports a 6.06 ERA.

So what happened?

Location, location, location.

Covey has struggled to keep the ball down in the zone and has paid the price as hitters are teeing off on the high offerings.

“I just kind of got away from trying to keep the ball down in the zone and have that be my main focus,” Covey said. “Sometimes when I’m up in the zone I’m trying to be up there, but I need to get back to my bread and butter, which is pretty much being down in the zone with everything.”

The issues have been a combination of mechanics and mentality, according to Covey.

“Having good mechanics will lead to getting the ball down into the zone but more so it’s having the focus be down in the zone,” he said.

Covey’s next attempt to right the ship will be Saturday when he’s scheduled to pitch against the Royals at Guaranteed Rate Field. Despite his struggles, which include a 1-6 record and 7.71 ERA in his last seven starts, manager Rick Renteria has continued to give Covey the ball.

“I’ve kind of been given the luxury to have a couple of opportunities and I appreciate that,” Covey said. “They see me work and they see the stuff that I have. When I can harness it and get control of it, it can be pretty good.”

Renteria said the Sox are “confident and hopeful” that Covey can turn things around.

“In real terms, he’s the one that's got to do it,” Renteria added. “He’s worked and gained a lot of experience and knowledge and had some successes this year that I think will bode well for him. Getting it down, for him is really, really important because the ball has a lot of tremendous action below the zone. We need him to do that in order to be effective and we believe he will continue to progress in that regard.”

Covey said that a stretch from May 23-June 13 when he went 4-0 with a 1.53 ERA gave him the confidence he needs to get through this difficult stretch.

“I’ve seen it this year--I’ve had the success,” Covey said. “When things are working for me I know I can be a really good pitcher. I just need to limit the mistakes and then learn to make an adjustment sooner rather than later.”

With about six weeks remaining in the Sox’s season, Covey plans to use his opportunities on the mound to secure a place on the 2019 roster.

“That’s where a lot of guys on this team are,” Covey said. “Obviously, we want to win games right now but for me, I want to finish this season strong and get some momentum going into next year and leave off on a good note. Just to have that feeling of, ‘OK, this is what I did last year and how I finished and let’s just carry on from there and pick it up from where I left off.’”

Suspended catcher Welington Castillo working his way back to White Sox with minor league rehab stint

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USA TODAY

Suspended catcher Welington Castillo working his way back to White Sox with minor league rehab stint

With about a week until the end of his 80-game suspension, Welington Castillo his making his way back to the White Sox.

The veteran catcher joined Triple-A Charlotte for a rehab assignment Friday, in the Knights' lineup for their afternoon game.

Castillo has been serving his suspension since May 24, when Major League Baseball handed down its punishment for his testing positive for a banned substance. He's eligible to return Aug. 23, just nine days before rosters expand.

The White Sox added Castillo over the offseason after he had career years offensively and defensively with the Baltimore Orioles during the 2017 season. The hope was he could provide a veteran presence and help out with the development of the team's young pitching staff — and of course that his bat could help bolster the team's everyday lineup. A two-year contract with an option for a third meant that if all went well, Castillo could be around for the start of the team's transition from rebuilding to contending, a sort of bridge to top catching prospect Zack Collins.

Things obviously did not work out as planned, and Castillo has missed months of time working with the pitchers while he's served his suspension.

Still, his return will perhaps be a welcome help to young pitchers still learning how to succeed against major league lineups, guys like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, who have had inconsistent first full campaigns in the big leagues — not to mention any young pitchers who might be called up from the minor leagues over the season's final month and a half.

As for the team's catching situation, Omar Narvaez has done very well at the plate since taking over as the starting catcher when Castillo was suspended. Since the beginning of June, Narvaez is slashing .356/.433/.559, and his season batting average of .282 is one of the highest on the team. Kevan Smith, the No. 2 catcher, is hitting .283 on the season. Castillo will return with a .267/.309/.466 slash line in 33 games he played in before being suspended.