KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The White Sox’ first game of 2019 looked a lot like 2018.
Which is almost everything they don’t want to look like.
A throwing error by the shortstop, a fielding error by the second baseman, a throwing error by a pitcher, two stolen bases allowed in one inning, and for good measure, very little offense.
The result? A 5-3 loss to the Royals and right-hander Brad Keller, who took every ounce of the fun out of the Sox opener by not only shutting the visitors down but striking out prized prospect Eloy Jimenez his first two times up and retiring him on a ground ball in his third at-bat in a much anticipated major league debut. Jimenez also got turned around on a deep liner over his head.
Jimenez, 22, signed to a six-year, $43 million contract last week, is the No. 3 ranked prospect in baseball. Jimenez did get his first RBI the hard way, getting hit by a pitch on the foot by lefty Jake Diekman with the bases loaded in the ninth, when the Sox brought the go-ahead run to the plate against the Royals bullpen.
Three Royals relievers walked three Sox batters and hit one in the ninth, and Tim Anderson’s RBI single against Kevin McCarthy made it 5-3. But Yolmer Sanchez flied out against Brad Boxberger with two runners on to end the game.
The Sox couldn’t even say “tomorrow is another day” after this one. There is an off day Friday before the opening series is completed Saturday and Sunday.
Jimenez wasn’t the only one who had problems with Keller, who was 6-8 with a 4.18 ERA last season. Keller held the Sox scoreless on two hits and one walk while striking out five in seven innings, out-pitching Carlos Rodon — who wasn’t bad with three runs (two earned) allowed in 5 1/3 innings. Rodon allowed three hits and one walk while striking out six in his first Opening Day start.
In a matchup of division foes who lost 100 (Sox) and 104 games last season, neither side recorded a hit until Sox first baseman Jose Abreu singled to center with one out in the fourth. Keller then struck out four Sox in a row.
After waiting out a one hour, 45 minute rain delay — the scheduled 3:15 p.m. game started at 5:01 — Rodon breezed through three hitless innings before Adalberto Mondesi tripled into the right field corner leading off the fourth. He scored on Alex Gordon’s sacrifice fly to deep right field.
On Mondesi’s triple, his first of two in the game, he appeared to come off the bag sliding into third and was called out by umpire Gabe Morales, but the Royals challenged and the call was overturned. On Gordon’s sacrifice fly scoring Mondesi, right fielder Daniel Palka leaped to make the catch at the top of the fence.
Whit Merrifield lobbed a soft single into short center leading off the sixth, stole second and third on Rodon and catcher James McCann and scored on Jorge Soler’s single, putting the Sox in a 2-0 hole. An error by second baseman Yolmer Sanchez on a potential double-play ground ball allowed a second run to score and ended Rodon’s day.
The other Sox errors were on Tim Anderson, who overthrew first baseman Jose Abreu on a Martin Maldanado’s routine ground ball with one out in the second, and reliever Dylan Covey’s short-hop throw to Abreu.
The Sox defense wasn’t all bad. There was Palka’s catch, Leury Garcia made a good running catch in the gap and Yoan Moncada had a strong game at third base, including two good plays on ground balls in his first game at the position for the Sox.
Mondesi’s second triple, against righty Ryan Burr, scored Merrifield to give the Royals a 4-0 lead in the seventh. The Royals made it 5-0 on Soler’s double against Covey that sailed over Jimenez’ head in left field.