CHICAGO | Now we know Jeremy Guthrie can really multi-task against the Sox.
The earnest Kansas City Royals right-hander can not only mow down their lineup with relative ease, but Guthrie can also say the right thing without stirring up the vanquished.
“I never had a mastery over any team,” he said. “But if I do, I’ll be sure to let you know. I’ve had quite a few that had a very good mastery over me.”
Guthrie’s verbiage had as much misdirection as his pitches. On Thursday he was officially birthed into citizenship of the top Sox killers of baseball.
Guthrie racked up his fifth consecutive good-to-great performance against the South Siders. Professing beforehand he was not a strikeout pitcher, Guthrie notched eight swinging strike threes among his nine K’s in six innings to outduel Gavin Floyd in the Royals’ 3-1 victory over the Sox.
Nobody in uniform is willing to admit Guthrie has the Sox’s number, not Guthrie, not the hitters who usually flail away at him.
He’s a 33-year-old journeyman who had five losing seasons in a row between 2008 and 2012. But he dramatically improved with some mechanical adjustments upon arriving in Kansas City at mid-summer 2012.
The numbers, though, against the Sox are stark: only two earned runs allowed in 35 2/3 innings over those five starts, all Royals wins, going back to Aug. 8, 2012. Guthrie also had a 21-inning scoreless streak at U.S. Cellular Field snapped in the fifth inning Thursday as the Sox, amazingly, manufactured a run. The tally was their first this season not via a home run.
“I’m betting most of us don’t even know that,” catcher Tyler Flowers said of the two-earned-runs stat. When Flowers was asked about Guthrie on Wednesday, he was informed of that stinginess.
Making matters even odder was Flowers and Gordon Beckham, the No. 8 and 9 hitters in the Sox order, had a 1.000 on-base percentage Thursday. Flowers had a single, two walks and was hit by a pitch. Beckham tied a career high with four hits, all singles.
“He’s not some slouch on the mound,” Flowers said. “He’s seemed to figure some things out the last couple of years. When his command is on, he’s a challenge.”
Something else could be at work. The Sox haven’t shaken their hyper-aggressive, swing-first mentality going up against a right-hander in Guthrie who can move his pitches around “six different ways,” according to manager Robin Ventura.
And just maybe Guthrie has crept into their heads, just as the Royals’ two-year dominance over the Sox in 2011-12 has had an overall effect. Just listen to Hawk Harrelson, a team wind sock, moan about Kansas City.
“It could be a mental thing,” theorized Royals right fielder Jeff Francouer. “But I also think, you look at it, for some reason, our pitchers have thrown really well against the White Sox.
“That’s just baseball. That’s the one good thing about the sport, it’s got so many unexplainable things.”
Guthrie also said the right things before his start.
“I think everyone will tell you the White Sox are one of the tougher in the league to face, day in and day out,” he said.
The man’s good. He’s bested the Sox physically. And it looks like he’s winning the battle of the mind games.
This column solely represents the writer’s opinion. Reach him at DGemsNet@aol.com.