The White Sox and Royals kick off a three-game series on Monday night at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium. Jesse Scholtens takes the mound for the visiting White Sox, while Cole Ragans makes his 8th start for the Royals.
The Royals are heavy favorites in this game with -142 moneyline odds, while the over/under is set at 9 runs. The prediction here is that the Royals win and the under hits.
White Sox vs. Royals Prediction
Starting pitchers: RHP Jesse Scholtens (1-6, 3.97 ERA) vs. LHP Cole Ragans (5-4, 3.27 ERA)
Cole Ragans has been nothing short of dominant since the Royals acquired him on June 30 from the Texas Rangers in exchange for closer Aroldis Chapman.
In 7 starts for Kansas City, the 2016 1st-round pick has a 1.73 ERA and 1.08 WHIP over 41-2/3 innings pitched. He has also posted a strikeout rate of 12.10 K/9 and a K/BB ratio of 5.10. Those are elite numbers over a not-so-small sample size.
Since making his first start for the Royals on July 15, Ragans leads the majors in ERA and FIP (1.68) and he is 2nd in xFIP. He also has the 3rd best strikeout rate behind only Freddy Peralta and Spencer Strider, two top-of-the-rotation starters on playoff-bound teams.
The White Sox better get familiar with Ragans, because it looks like he’ll be in the rotation for their AL Central rivals next season and likely for many years beyond that.
It’s hard to expect the White Sox to do much offensively while Ragans is in the game, and not only because of how well he’s been pitching. Chicago is 25th in runs scored, 28th in OPS (.686) and wOBA (.296) and 29th in wRC+. None of those numbers have noticeably changed over the last month. The White Sox are simply bad offensively.
Of course, the Royals have not been any better. They are one of the only teams that has been worse than the White Sox in runs scored (28th) and wRC+ (29th) and they have only been slightly better in other categories.
Unlike the White Sox, however, the Royals have started looking much better at the plate over the last month. Since August 1 they are 12th in runs and OPS and 13th in wOBA.
The Royals also get a much more friendly pitching matchup against the White Sox’s Jesse Scholtens. The 29-year-old rookie moved into the rotation on August 1 and has been up-and-down through six starts.
He pitched quality starts for his first three outings before allowing 5 runs each in consecutive starts (of 3 innings and 5-2/3 innings, respectively). He bounced back in his most recent start, holding the Orioles to just 1 run on 6 hits through 5-1/3 innings.
With a limited sample size of inconsistent performance, it’s hard to know what to expect from Scholtens, but it’s easy to conclude that he is not nearly the weapon that Ragans is on the mound.
We’re going to bet on Ragans’ dominance continuing against the weak White Sox lineup, and the Royals’ improving offense doing enough to get the win. The -142 moneyline odds don’t offer much value, so we’re going show our confidence in Ragans by taking the Royals -1.5 to get the much more appealing +140 odds.
We’re also taking the under on a relatively high line of 9 runs considering neither lineup is particularly dangerous. The bullpens could be an issue with betting the under (discussed further below), but it’s still the smart money bet.
White Sox vs. Royals Prediction: Royals -1.5 (+140), under 9 runs (-120)
Note: all metrics above taken before Sunday’s games
White Sox vs. Royals Odds
With a big edge on the mounds, the Royals are heavy favorites at -142 on the moneyline, while the White Sox’s moneyline odds are +120.
The Royals are laying -1.5 runs on the spread at +140 odds, while the White Sox are getting +1.5 runs at -166 odds.
The over/under in this game is set at 9 runs with +100 odds on the over and -120 odds on the under.
White Sox vs. Royals Key Matchups
Here are the key matchups that could decide White Sox vs. Royals.
Cole Ragans vs. Luis Robert Jr.
Our confidence in Cole Ragans was the main reason we picked the Royals to cover a -1.5 run spread in our White Sox vs. Royals prediction. For that confidence to be rewarded, Ragans will need to take care of business against the White Sox’s most dangerous hitter, Luis Robert Jr.
Robert Jr. leads the White Sox in home runs (35, t-6th in MLB), RBI (71), OPS (.884) and stolen bases (17). He is significantly better against lefties, hitting .070 points better (.327 vs .257) with an OPS .142 points higher (.996 vs .854).
If Ragans can get a few key outs against Robert Jr., he will have a much easier time with the rest of the White Sox’s lineup.
Our biggest hesitation with taking the under in this game was the two bullpens. These are two of the weakest bullpens in the league, with the White Sox 26th in bullpen ERA (4.87) and the Royals 29th (5.29).
Neither relief staff has shown any recent signs of improvement. Both have actually declined since the All-Star break, with the White Sox’s ERA at 5.13 (25th) and the Royals at 5.68 (27th).
The bullpen matchup means it could be anyone’s game once the starters are pulled. It also means the starter that goes deeper into the game will give his team an even bigger advantage, which makes us even confident in the Royals -1.5, even if some late runs could put the under at risk.
White Sox vs. Royals Starting Lineups (Projected)
White Sox Starting Lineup
SS Tim Anderson (R)
LF Andrew Benintendi (L)
CF Luis Robert Jr. (R)
DH Eloy Jimenez (R)
1B Andrew Vaughn (R)
3B Yoan Moncada (S)
2B Elvis Andrus (R)
RF Oscar Colas (L)
C Korey Lee (R)
Royals Starting Lineup
3B Maikel Garcia (R)
SS Bobby Witt Jr. (R)
RF M.J. Melendez (L)
C Salvador Perez (R)
2B Michael Massey (L)
DH Edward Olivares (R)
LF Drew Waters (S)
1B Matt Beaty (L)
CF Dairon Blanco (R)