Jeremy Guthrie isn't hiding his problem keeping the ball in the park. After the Royals right-hander gave up three home runs in a 5-3 loss to the Rays on Saturday, he was well aware at where he ranked among baseball's worst at surrendering the long ball.
"I've got 19 of them, right?" Guthrie said. "Yeah. Dan Haren has 18. I'd like someone to pass me. It's hard for them to pass me. I'm going real fast."
Guthrie said he's been concentrating on throwing his pitches lower in the zone to prevent home runs, but said the progress hasn't manifested into positive results just yet. Kansas City had a scheduled off-day on Thursday, so Guthrie will have a chance to improve on his home run problem on Friday, when the Royals open a series against the White Sox at Kauffman Stadium.
While teams are hitting Guthrie where it hurts, he's still enjoying one of the finer seasons of his career. Before the start last Saturday, when Guthrie allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits over seven innings, he'd pieced together three straight quality starts, and he leads all Royals starters in wins. Guthrie went a club-record 18 consecutive outings without a defeat from Aug. 8, 2012 until May 9.
For Guthrie to put his team in a successful position against the White Sox on Friday, he'll need to prevent the team with the third-fewest home runs in the American League from taking him deep.
"We'll test the progress on Friday," Guthrie said. "I always hope to make progress. Even when things are going good, I hope to make positive progress."
The matchup seems to be a favorable one for Guthrie as he faces a White Sox team that has lost seven of its last eight games and enters Friday's series opener fresh off a sweep at the hands of the Twins. Along with the lack of home runs, Chicago also ranks near the bottom of the AL in hits, runs and batting average.
"We're consistent with what we're doing and what we'd like to see," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of the discussions among the coaching staff regarding the offensive struggles. "At some point, it's frustrating for them too. The results aren't there. The players are just as frustrated as anyone else. You want that feel and get it going in the right direction."
Guthrie will oppose White Sox left-hander Hector Santiago, who calls himself a "Swiss Army knife," because of the several different roles he's pitched in this season. Santiago's currently filling in for Jake Peavy in the rotation while the veteran recovers from a broken rib.
Santiago pitched in the rotation earlier in the season while John Danks was recovering from arthroscopic surgery by building arm strength. Santiago's been called upon to fill a need yet again, and Friday will be his third start since rejoining the rotation.
White Sox: Crain sets franchise record
Reliever Jesse Crain continued his dominant run on Thursday against the Twins, posting his 28th consecutive scoreless outing to set a new franchise record. Crain's scoreless streak surpassed J.J. Putz's previous mark of 27 straight appearances without allowing a run, set from May 14-July 28, 2010.
Crain provided solid work out of the bullpen last year, compiling a 2.44 ERA over 51 appearances, but he has taken it to a new level this year. The righty has a 0.55 ERA in 32 2/3 innings over 34 appearances. He's allowed just two runs -- one each in back-to-back outings on April 11 and 12 -- and has notched 43 strikeouts while yielding just 23 hits.
"A lot of it looks the same [compared to last year]," Ventura said. "I don't know exactly [where] to pinpoint it, but he's just been spot on as far as control. He throws anything in any count. I think that the confidence to be able to do that deep in a count with guys on, without guys on -- the control has just been there with every pitch."
Royals: Strong road trip ends with a letdown
Despite dropping the final two games of their seven-game road trip, the Royals remain confident in their improved play of late as they return home on Friday.
Kansas City finished its trip 4-3 overall after winning four of the first five contests. The Royals also saw their streak of four consecutive series victories snapped with the back-to-back losses, though they enter Friday's series opener just two games below .500 at 34-36.
"It was a good road trip," left fielder Alex Gordon said. "We would have loved to have turned these last two games around, and we could have. We had our opportunities and just didn't do it. We're going to enjoy the day off [on Thursday], clear our heads and try to keep things going. We can't let these last two games affect us moving forward."
• Kansas City has allowed the fewest earned runs in the AL with 234.
• White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez is just 3-for-33 (.091) in his career against Guthrie. It's Ramirez's lowest average against any pitcher whom he's faced at least 20 times.
• Designated hitter Adam Dunn hasn't fared any better against Guthrie, collecting just two hits in 22 lifetime at-bats against the righty for another .091 average.
Ethan Asofsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.