CHICAGO — These kind of starts appear to be becoming the norm for Jakob Junis.
The right-hander, much like in his previous two outings, wasn’t terribly economical with his pitches, needing 100 to navigate 5 1/3 innings in the Royals’ 9-3 loss to the White Sox on Friday night. However, Junis again limited the damage in his sixth start since being activated from the disabled list with back inflammation, as he allowed just two runs on five hits in a no-decision.
“Fastball command wasn’t really there today, struggled with that, but thankfully I made some pitches when it counted and got some outs,” Junis said. “Made some sliders late in the game that got me some outs in some crucial situations.”
Despite Junis’ efforts, Royals reliever Jason Adam labored in a seven-run seventh inning, highlighted by three-run homers from Jose Abreu and Nicky Delmonico in the series opener at Guaranteed Rate Field. Adam wasn’t helped by an Alcides Escobar fielding error in that seventh that snapped the club’s franchise-record errorless streak at 16 games.
“Definitely the wrong pitch to throw when you’ve got a three-hole hitter ready to ambush,” Adam said of Abreu’s home run. “I had very little room for error and obviously I erred, it was right down the middle and he put it out.”
Junis returned to the active roster on July 21, throwing a combined 30 2/3 innings over his six starts. In that span, he has averaged a shade over five innings, but more than 90 pitches per start.
“Really had to grind through it, really had to work hard,” manager Ned Yost said of Junis. “Made pitches when he needed to, but it was one of those days where he didn’t have his best stuff, but you continue to grind it out.”
Junis hasn’t been bothered by his back at all since he returned from the DL.
“I had to take that first [start] a little slow to build me back up,” Junis said, “but ever since then I’ve been good.”
Over his past two outings especially, Junis appeared to be returning to his early season form, when he owned a 2.02 ERA after his first four starts. Additionally, Junis’ slider, his main breaking pitch, has generated more swinging strikes in August than any other month this season. He threw 29 sliders on Friday night, according to MLB.com’s BaseballSavant, inducing six swings and misses.
“It got better as the game went on,” Junis said of his slider. “Early it wasn’t very sharp, it was kind of lazy, just hanging up there, but late in the game when I had some guys on, I threw some good ones.”
All three of the Royals’ runs came in the third inning against White Sox starter James Shields. After Escobar tallied a one-out single, Escobar and Drew Butera executed a textbook hit-and-run, setting up Whit Merrifield’s RBI double. Alex Gordon then hit a sacrifice fly and Salvador Perez drove in Merrifield with a single.