Pitcher Jakob Junis showed exactly why the Royals have stuck with him through his ups and downs. Flashes of his potential, such as his outing on Monday, will make you wonder what Junis might become if he performs that way consistently.
Junis set a career high for strikeouts in a game with 10 as he set the tone for a 5-2 win over the Chicago White Sox in the first game of their four-game series in front of an announced 16,006 at Kauffman Stadium. Junis’ previous high of nine strikeouts came against the Oakland Athletics on June 3, 2018.
Junis (5-8) allowed just one run on five hits and two walks in seven innings, his best outing of the season. He shined brighter than White Sox All-Star pitcher Lucas Giolito, who’d been a pesky thorn in the side of the Royals.
Alex Gordon (1-for-4) drove in a pair of runs, Nicky Lopez (2-for-4, 2 RBIs), Hunter Dozier (2-for-4, 2 runs) and Cheslor Cuthbert (2-for-4) also drove in runs, including the 100th career RBI for Cuthbert in the fourth inning. Whit Merrifield extended his hitting streak to 13 games.
Catcher Martin Maldonado, a likely trade chip, doubled in the fifth inning before being taken out of the game for an unknown reason in the bottom of the sixth.
Giolito had gone 3-0 against the Royals in four starts this season — he left one start in the third inning due to hamstring tightness — and 6-0 with a 2.13 ERA , 0.87 WHIP and a .164 opponents batting average in 10 career starts against the Royals.
Giolito also took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium on March 31, his first start of the season.
This season, Giolito hadn’t just dominated the Royals. He entered the day among the American League leaders in opponents batting average (second, .194), opponents slugging percentage (second, .315), opponents OPS (second, .590), wins (tied for second, 11), WHIP (sixth, 1.07) and ERA (seventh, 3.15).
Gordon’s one-out double to right-center set up Dozier’s RBI double off the left field wall to put the Royals in front 1-0 in the fourth inning. They’d come into the inning having recorded just one hit in the first three innings.
After Jorge Soler grounded out, Cuthbert hit a two-out RBI single through the right side of the infield to give the Royals a 2-0 advantage after four innings.
White Sox catcher James McCann hit a solo home run in the sixth for the first blemish against Junis, but the Royals tacked on an insurance run in the sixth inning on a two-out RBI single by Lopez to carry a 3-1 lead into the seventh inning.
Giolito (11-4) left after six innings, having allowed three runs on seven hits and one walk.
The Royals’ fourth run came on a Gordon grounder to first base with a runner on third in the seventh inning.
Reliever Scott Barlow, recalled from Triple-A Omaha prior to the game to fill Homer Bailey’s spot on the roster, gave up one run in the eighth before Jake Diekman came in and stranded the bases loaded.
A fielding error allowed the Royals to add their fifth run in the bottom of the eighth. Closer Ian Kennedy picked up his 14th save.