KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Gio Gonzalez made his first start for the hot-hitting Chicago White Sox more than 16 years after they drafted him, and the veteran responded by holding the Kansas City Royals scoreless into the fourth inning of an 11-5 rout Saturday night.
Eloy Jimenez hit a three-run homer and finished with a career-high four hits, and rookie Luis Robert had four hits while finishing a triple shy of the cycle, leading a White Sox barrage of 21 hits in all. Leury Garcia also pounded out four hits, Yoan Moncada added three and Yasmani Grandal had a pair of hits while driving in two runs.
Much of Chicago’s damage came off spot starter Ronald Bolanos (0-2), who allowed five runs in 1 2/3 innings. But just as much came against a Kansas City bullpen that had been among the best in the majors so far this season.
Whit Merrifield hit a two-run homer for the Royals. Ryan O’Hearn drove in their other two runs.
The teams combined for 36 hits and left 27 runners on base in a game that lasted nearly 4 hours.
The 34-year-old Gonzalez was a first-round pick of the White Sox in 2004, but he was traded to the Phillies the following year in a deal that included Aaron Rowand and Jim Thome. That began an odyssey that included stops with the Athletics, Nationals and Brewers along with two All-Star selections and a season in which he led the National League in wins.
Gonzalez finally returned to the White Sox in December, signing a $5 million contract for this season, and made his debut for them in relief of injured starter Reynaldo Lopez last weekend. Gonzalez took his spot in the rotation Saturday night.
The left-hander might keep it for a while, too, thanks to some poise under pressure.
Gonzalez had a leadoff single wiped away when Merrifield was caught stealing in the first. He struck out Nicky Lopez to leave the bases loaded in the second. After leaving another aboard in the third, Gonzalez exited with the bases loaded in the fourth, and watched from the dugout as Jimmy Cordero got Merrifield to pop out and end the threat.
The White Sox built a 7-0 lead through five innings and cruised the rest of the way to their third straight win.
The White Sox became the first team to lead off with four Cuban players in major league history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Robert led off the game, Moncada batted second, Jose Abreu third and Grandal was the cleanup hitter.
White Sox: INF Tim Anderson (right groin strain) went on the IL after leaving in the seventh inning of Friday night’s game. He had been hitting .333 after leading the majors with a .335 average last season. C Yermin Mercedes was recalled from the taxi squad to fill his roster spot. Mercedes has yet to make his major league debut.
Royals: RHP Brad Keller pitched a simulated game at Kauffman Stadium earlier Saturday and could make his season debut this week. The Royals’ opening day starter in 2019 tested positive for COVID-19 but has been cleared for about two weeks. “I feel pretty good. Threw quite a bit of pitches today,” Keller said. “Whenever they tell me, I’m ready.”
Royals RHP Jakob Junis makes his season debut Sunday after returning from a positive COVID-19 test, becoming their major league-leading seventh different starter. RHP Dylan Cease (0-1, 15.43) is on the mound for the White Sox.
“I was planning on throwing (a bullpen session) tomorrow but the last couple of outings have gone pretty well,” Junis said earlier Saturday. “I am just excited to get back with my team and compete. I like where I’m at right now.”
Photo credit – Charlie Riedel / Associated Press / Kansas City, MO