KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Nick Madrigal was starting to lose sleep after two frustrating games without his first big league hit.
Once the top prospect finally got it, they kept right on coming.
Madrigal followed his first career hit with three more on Sunday, pacing the Chicago White Sox to a 9-2 romp over the Kansas City Royals. The 23-year-old infielder had a pair of hits in a seven-run seventh inning, when he scored the go-ahead run and had his first career RBI, and barely missed out on a 5-for-5 day on a ground ball in the ninth inning.
“It’s hard when everyone knows that you hadn’t gotten a hit yet,” said Madrigal, who was brought up for the start of the three-game series Friday night.
“They kind of joke with you and the pressure builds,” he said, “but once I saw that first one fall the weight was off me.”
Yasmani Grandal added three RBIs and Nicky Delmonico two in support of right-hander Dylan Cease (1-1), who gave up a homer to Alex Gordon in the third inning but otherwise steered clear of trouble. Cease wound up allowing two runs and five hits over six innings in a solid bounce-back performance from a miserable start in Detroit.
“The biggest thing is I was just a little more under control,” Cease said. “Made sure I wasn’t rushing down the mound and just trying to be aggressive. It all started with my fastball command.”
Scott Barlow (1-1) took the loss for the Royals, who wound up getting swept.
“There are things we need to clean up and get better at. But there are things we’re doing well,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said, “and when we’re doing them well we need to make sure we’re pointing that out, too. Bottom line is we play this game for W’s and right now they’re hard to come by.”
Madrigal, the fourth overall pick out of Oregon State in the 2018 draft, had been hitless through two games. He finally got the first of his career in the third inning — and the White Sox made sure he got the ball — then added another in the fifth before scoring on a bases-loaded walk.
Madrigal put an exclamation mark on his big afternoon in the seventh. He led off with a single and scored the go-ahead run on Jose Abreu’s base hit, then singled again and drove in his first career run when the White Sox batted through the lineup.
If not for Salvador Perez beating him to first base in the ninth, it would have been even more spectacular.
“I think he was a little calmer,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “After the first hit he was much more relaxed. When you get to the big leagues, one of the things you want to do is get that one out of the way.”
The Royals had high hopes Jakob Junis would get their pitching back on track. He was recalled along with batterymate Cam Gallagher earlier in the day to make his season debut. Both players had been cleared after testing positive for COVID-19 and building up their stamina at the club’s alternate training site in Kansas City, Kansas.
Junis and Gallagher worked well together through 4 1/3 innings, surrendering just two runs and six hits.
It was the bullpen that let Kansas City down.
Tyler Zuber walked three while recording just two outs. Barlow then allowed the go-ahead runs in the seventh when Greg Holland was unable to get him out of the two-on, no-out jam. Holland proceeded to allow two more of his own volition, then Glenn Sparkman threw the ball away on an easy grounder for an error that let two more runs score.
KICK SAVE AND A BEAUTY
Junis helped himself in the second when he deflected a liner by Eloy Jiménez off his foot to Maikel Franco at third base. The ball never hit the ground, so Franco caught it for an out and fired to first base to double off Edwin Encarnación.
“Looking back on it, it was pretty dumb honestly,” Junis said. “The shift was working perfectly right where he hit it. One of those things where I just reacted. I don’t know if I’ve ever reacted by putting my foot out like that. I kicked it up perfectly and it was a pretty cool play all-in-all but not the smartest one.”
The Royals optioned right-hander Ronald Bolanos and designated catcher Oscar Hernandez for assignment to make room for Junis and Gallagher on the roster. Bolanos (0-2) allowed five runs while recording just five outs Saturday night.
White Sox utilityman Leury García got the day off after a death in his family. “We’ll just leave it at that,” Renteria said. “I just kind of gave him a day today to kind of settle his own thoughts. I’m sure everybody understands.”
Royals: SS Adalberto Mondesi left after the fifth with a bruised quad. Nicky Lopez replaced him. … OF Hunter Dozier (coronavirus) could join the alternate site camp Monday to begin a two-week ramp-up, general manager Dayton Moore said. Dozier tested positive July 22 but has been cleared to return.
The White Sox conclude an eight-game, nine-day trip with left-hander Carlos Rodon (0-1, 12.27 ERA) on the mound Monday night in the opener of a two-game series in Milwaukee. The Royals begin a four-game, two-city series against the Cubs on Monday night with lefty Danny Duffy (0-1, 5.79 ERA) starting the first of two in Chicago.