White Sox manager Robin Ventura sees a chance this weekend for his club to improve in the AL Central standings against the Royals.
He knows it won't be easy.
"It's a tough division," Ventura said before Friday's 7-2 loss to Kansas City in the series opener. "When you start playing each other you don't see those records of teams beating a team 17 times out of 18. When that happens you tend to beat yourself up and close the gap and bunch each other up."
The White Sox will need to improve their defense if they want to compete in the three-game set that continues Saturday -- Chicago has not earned an error since last Saturday against the Angels, but Ventura sees his team slipping.
"You come out early and work on things, but it's continuous," he said. "That kind of stuff is always there, and you're working at it. You want them confident enough that once you play you just go out and play. The more you work at it you get more confident, and you get better at it.
"The defense just needs to be better. It's very important. We've seen how it can shoot you in the foot not playing good defense."
White Sox starter Hector Noesi (2-3) will try to help out his defense by continuing his hot streak.
Noesi is 2-0 with a 3.24 ERA and a .226 opponent average with 19 strikeouts over his past four starts. He has won consecutive starts for the first time in his career and has lowered his ERA to 5.40 from 14.21 since joining the White Sox.
The Royals will stick Danny Duffy (3-5) on the hill Saturday.
The fourth-year hurler has a respectable 3.26 ERA through 13 outings, including seven starts, and has calmed down since giving up five earned runs in two straight starts -- May 23 against the Angels and May 28 vs. Houston.
He bounced back by allowing zero runs in six innings against the Cardinals in his next start, and then gave up three in 5 2/3 against the Yankees last Saturday. The performance was not his best, but it still got the job done in an 8-4 victory.
"He came out and had electric stuff from the beginning," manager Ned Yost said. "Got his fastball up to 97 miles an hour, commanded the strike zone well and mixed his pitches well."
White Sox: Abreu draws attention of other teams
In his short time as part of the White Sox, Jose Abreu has added White Sox fans, his teammates and opposing pitchers to his long list of admirers. Manager Robin Ventura mentioned Friday that opposing managers and coaches also watch the sensation from Cuba -- and not just because of his great offensive success.
"They're just impressed with his professionalism," Ventura said. "He's not a flamboyant guy, but he comes to work. I think they come out, even for BP, and watch him.
"I think everybody's interested because they've heard about him but they haven't seen him, so everybody comes out to watch. That's the first thing they notice, is how he goes about his work. He's very meticulous and professional about his work, and I think people appreciate that."
Royals: Chen makes second rehab appearance
Royals starter Bruce Chen, who is on the disabled list with a bulging disc in his lower back, made his second rehab start for Triple-A Omaha on Friday. He allowed six earned runs and eight hits with two walks and a strikeout in three innings.
In his first rehab start, on Sunday, Chen surrendered four runs on 10 hits with a strikeout and no walks. The Royals' rotation has been OK without him. Entering the series, they had posted a 3.86 ERA, which ranked eighth in the American League.
"It would be good to get him back, but he's gotta come back healthy," Yost said.
The 36-year-old lefty registered a 3.27 ERA in 34 games (15 starts) covering 121 innings last season.
• Duffy has reached 100 pitches just once this season, when he hit the century mark on the nose in his previous start. The Royals have kept a tighter leash on him this year after allowing him to hit the mark 13 times in his first 31 career starts.
• Noesi is pitching for his third team this season. He appeared in two games for Seattle and three games for Texas this April before Chicago claimed him off waivers.