Having secured their highest win total in 24 years, the Kansas City Royals are likely more optimistic about the future than in any other recent season.
The hard-throwing Yordano Ventura would appear to be a part of that.
The right-hander will seek his first major league win in his third career start Saturday night against the Chicago White Sox.
Kansas City won't end its 28-year playoff drought but there might be some high hopes for the Royals next season after they reached 85 wins for the first time since 1989.
After a one-run victory in the series opener, Kansas City (85-75) had few problems dispatching the lowly White Sox (62-98) on Friday. Billy Butler hit a two-run double in the first inning on his way to a three-hit night and Emilio Bonifacio also drove in a pair of runs.
"We feel like our organization has made great progress," manager Ned Yost said. "We got to experience what it was like playing deep into September in a playoff race and it was great experience."
Ventura will try to help the Royals add to their win total, their highest since going 92-70 in 1989, with another strong outing. The right-hander, who threw a 102-mph pitch in his major league debut Sept. 17, has allowed one run over 5 2-3 innings in each of his first two games.
Ventura (0-0, 1.59 ERA) gave up two hits and struck out six Monday in Seattle but the Royals bullpen blew a lead in a 6-5 win in 12 innings.
"Ventura, man, wow! What an exhibition he put on out there," Yost told the team's website.
Kansas City has won six straight in Chicago, posting a 1.11 ERA during that span.
In his fifth major league start, the White Sox's Erik Johnson (2-2, 2.82) will try to earn a third straight win while helping his club avoid moving to the brink of its first 100-loss season since 1970.
Chicago is already guaranteed its worst finish since going 56-106 during that campaign.
"Nobody wants that," manager Robin Ventura said of 100 defeats. "Is it going to be the big difference going into next year? Probably not, but nobody wants that."
The 23-year-old Johnson gave up two runs and walked none over 6 2-3 innings Sunday in a 6-3 victory against AL Central champion Detroit.
"He did a good job going against a tough lineup," Ventura said. "He stayed out of trouble. That's great composure for a kid as old as he is."
Saturday's game could mark the penultimate one in Chicago for White Sox captain Paul Konerko . The first baseman/designated hitter has played with the team since the beginning of the 1999 season and is five total bases shy of matching Frank Thomas ' franchise record of 3,944.
Chicago general manager Rick Hahn said Friday that he is planning on giving the 37-year-old Konerko, who is eligible for free agency, some time to decide if he wants to retire, return to the team or head elsewhere.
|Kansas City Royals|
|September 17, 2013||Carlos Pena||60-Day DL||Appendectomy|
|September 16, 2013||Danny Duffy||Day-to-Day||Flexor tendon inflammation|
|September 08, 2013||Danny Duffy||15-Day DL||Strained left forearm|
|September 05, 2013||Salvador Perez||Day-to-Day||Concussion|
|September 03, 2013||Noel Arguelles||60-Day DL||Left shoulder|
|August 13, 2013||Mike Moustakas||Day-to-Day||Strained left calf|
|Chicago White Sox|
|September 24, 2013||Jeff Keppinger||Day-to-Day||Right shoulder surgery|
|September 20, 2013||Andre Rienzo||Day-to-Day||Blister right hand|
|September 08, 2013||Avisail Garcia||Day-to-Day||Pulled teeth|
|September 02, 2013||Tyler Flowers||Day-to-Day||Right shoulder surgery - out for season|
|September 02, 2013||Tyler Flowers||60-Day DL||Right shoulder surgery - out for season|
|August 20, 2013||Jeff Keppinger||Day-to-Day||Stiff lower back|
CHICAGO (AP) -- The Chicago White Sox had a power surge on Saturday night.
But the offensive production in the 6-5 win over the Kansas City Royals has been a rarity this season, and that was evident after the game when the team announced that hitting coach Jeff Manto had been fired.
The White Sox avoided 100 losses for the season with the win, but it wasn't enough to save Manto's job.
"Obviously, this has been a very disappointing season and one of the main areas of disappointment has been our offensive performance," general manager Rick Hahn said.
"We're at the bottom of several important categories, most importantly runs scored, walks and on-base percentage. It's our belief that the best way to continue to address some of those issues is to get a new voice in here to work with our hitters.
"We had a conversation with Jeff and we allowed him to choose whether he finished the season and had this announced on Monday. Jeff decided it was best for him to leave at the start of tonight's game."
Manager Robin Ventura said he fought for Manto to stay, but the decision to make the change wasn't his.
"As bad as this season has been, I don't want anyone to point the finger at him," Ventura said of Manto. "Having played and having the same thing as a player, there's responsibility all over the place."
The White Sox were a more potent offense on Saturday.
Adam Dunn and Conor Gillapie each hit two-run shots and Marcus Semien and Jordan Danks each added solo homers.
"Looking at last year, we hit a lot of home runs," Ventura said. "I think at periods we won more games because we got runs faster. Tonight was one of those nights. It was instant, for both teams. There was no manufacturing of runs. Last year, we had it. This year, we didn't have it as much."
It was an unseasonably warm night and the ball was flying out as if it was the middle of summer. All 11 runs came via the home run.
The White Sox opened the scoring with back-to-back homers from Semien and Danks in the bottom of the second inning for a 2-0 lead. It's the fourth time this season the White Sox have hit back-to-back homers.
Semien has only been with the White Sox a short time, but has a long history with Manto.
"I learned a lot from him," Semien said. "Even when I was in the minor leagues, he was our coordinator my first year. He taught me a lot about what to look for, what to do in certain situations. He's helped me become a smarter player."
The advantage grew to 4-0 when Dunn smashed a two-run shot in the third. It was Dunn's 34th homer on the season.
Those homers were surrendered by Royals starter Yordano Ventura (0-1), who allowed four runs and six hits in four innings.
White Sox starter Erik Johnson (3-2) didn't allow a hit through the first 4 1-3 innings.
Mike Moustakas then homered to right field with one out in the fifth inning. Then in the top of the sixth, Billy Butler hit a two-run shot to make it 4-3.
"This park is usually a good park to hit in if you get the ball in the air," Butler said. "Definitely in the (A.L.) Central it's the best park to hit in. You hit the ball in the air and you hit it good, it's going out."
The home runs continued in the bottom of the seventh when Gillaspie smacked the first pitch from left-handed reliever Tim Collins just over the right-field fence for a two-run homer and a 6-3 cushion. Salvador Perez got the runs right back with a two-run shot in the eighth.
White Sox closer Addison Reed worked a scoreless ninth for his 40th save.
NOTES: Assistant hitting coach Harold Baines will handle Manto's job in Sunday's season finale. Manto worked two years as Chicago's hitting coach. ... A day later, there was still a buzz about the unusual catch Royals left-fielder Alex Gordon made Friday on a fly ball by Alexei Ramirez . Gordon ran back and climbed the fence. But then he realized the ball wasn't going that far, so he jumped down and made a casual backhand catch. Many in the ballpark thought the ball was gone, including the person who sets off the fireworks celebrating every White Sox homer. "I wasn't fooled by that," Chicago manager Robin Ventura said. "I wasn't in charge of the fireworks. Believe it or not, we don't have a button controlling that in (the dugout)." ... Barring a last-second collapse of epic proportions, the Royals, who led the AL with a 2.55 bullpen ERA entering Saturday, will set a franchise mark. The previous low in a full season was 2.92 in 1976. . The series, and the season, wraps up Sunday with White Sox LHP Jose Quintana (9-6) facing LHP Bruce Chen (8-4).