Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011
Posted: 9:22 a.m.
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(AP) -- A preseason favorite to win the AL Central, the Chicago White Sox are instead limping to the finish.
The reeling White Sox look to avoid a fifth straight loss and prevent the Kansas City Royals from their season-high fifth consecutive victory Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series at Kauffman Stadium.
Chicago (73-75) was a manageable five games back of first-place Detroit on Aug. 30, but has since lost 10 of 15 while the Tigers have won 12 in a row to build a 13 12-game lead.
The White Sox did not seem to show much fight while being outscored 25-9 in a three-game sweep at the hands of Detroit this week. Chicago blew a three-run, ninth-inning lead and lost 6-5 in 10 innings Wednesday.
"Their fight left three days ago. I don't care what they say," disgruntled White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "It's not frustrating; it's embarrassing. It's embarrassing because we should have won this."
All-Star first baseman Paul Konerko believes the team's underachievement has finally taken a mental toll.
"When you grind for seven months and kind of get to a point where you know you can't get to where you want to get to it just happens," Konerko said. "People are human. Everybody is going out trying to do a job. Unfortunately at this point that's what it's become, a job."
September has been rough for Konerko, who had two hits and two RBIs on Wednesday but is 7 for 36 with one homer in his last 10 games. However, he has batted .326 with three home runs and nine RBIs in 11 games versus Kansas City in 2011.
Scheduled White Sox starter Mark Buehrle (11-8, 3.58 ERA) is 1-0 with a 4.74 ERA in three starts against the Royals this season but has allowed 15 runs and 18 hits over nine innings while losing his last two starts overall. The left-hander gave up seven runs in 5 2-3 innings of an 8-4 loss to Cleveland last Friday.
"It was another one of those days," Buehrle said.
Kansas City's Mike Moustakas is 0 for 5 versus Buehrle, but 8 for 19 with three RBIs in his last five games. The rookie third baseman had three hits and drove in two runs as the Royals (64-86) completed a two-game sweep of Minnesota with a 7-3 win Wednesday.
Fellow rookie Eric Hosmer is batting .350 with seven homers and 19 RBIs in his last 25 games. He's 10 for 31 versus Chicago this season but 1 for 6 off Buehrle.
Jeff Francis (5-16, 4.88) takes the mound for the Royals in what is expected to be his final start before he is shut down for the season. He is likely to exceed 180 innings just two years after undergoing shoulder surgery.
"I've proven I'm healthy and even though I'll miss my last two starts, I feel good and I feel strong enough that I could make them," Francis told the Royals' official website.
The left-hander looks to avoid a third straight losing start after he allowed five runs in 3 1-3 innings of a 7-3 defeat at Seattle last Friday. He's 0-1 with a 5.51 ERA in three starts versus Chicago this season.
The Royals are 6-5 in the season series, but the White Sox have taken the last two meetings.
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