Before the Royals took the field Sunday for their series finale with the Orioles, Billy Butler insisted that his team's offense could only get better.
After enduring a rough first three games in which the team totaled two runs, Kansas City broke out for eight runs on 11 hits in Sunday's 8-6 win. The Royals hope to carry that momentum into their three-game series against the White Sox beginning on Monday at Kauffman Stadium.
"We've played our worst baseball we could play offensively, and it's going to come back around," Butler said. "We're going to have a stretch where three or four guys catch fire."
Alex Gordon might be one of those guys after going 4-for-4 with two three-run home runs and a career-high six RBIs on Sunday.
"It felt good," Gordon said. "Our offense needed to come alive. And granted, it's just one day, but it feels good as an offense to finally get something going. We've been needing that and it's a good step."
Some of the Royals' struggles at the plate can be chalked up to bad luck. In the first five games of its homestand, Kansas City struck out only nine times. But the Royals converted just 21 percent of balls in play into hits (compared to a 28.6-percent mark for the season).
"With the positioning they have, and the scouting reports and all the shifts and stuff, you hit a ball right over the bag at second and it's an out," Butler said. "You're going to have some tough luck times, and you're going to have some good luck times."
Sunday was a less pleasant day for Chicago. Before an 8-2 loss to the Astros, the White Sox learned they would be without the services of rookie slugger Jose Abreu for the foreseeable future.
Despite Abreu -- the Majors' leader in home runs -- joining young outfielder Avisail Garcia and starter Chris Sale on the disabled list, general manager Rick Hahn refused to feel sorry for his team's unfortunate luck with injuries.
"There are two ways to look at it," Hahn said. "You can lament the fact that we have lost a large portion of our regulars over the course of the season and concern yourself about what could have been, or you can look at the fact that despite these hard hits, the guys who have been there have stepped up and responded to the opportunity and kept us close."
Monday's series opener features a matchup between the Royals left-hander Jason Vargas and the White Sox right-hander Scott Carroll.
White Sox: Carroll pitching to stay in the Majors
Carroll already has fulfilled a lifelong dream, winning his Major League debut against the Rays on April 27, after 138 Minor League games over eight seasons. But with Sale returning soon from the DL, Carroll knows one of the current starters most likely will be moving back to the Minors.
It's not exactly added pressure, as much as it is reality.
"I try not to focus on that. I'm trying to just do what I can do to help this team," Carroll said. "I'm trying to get better."
Carroll has struggled in his last two starts, allowing 22 hits and 12 earned runs over nine innings. That comes after he yielded just one run over the first 13 1/3 innings pitched in his career. Carroll has done what he can in terms of adjustments.
"Just really making sure my sinker is down in the zone," Carroll said. "With a lot of teams putting a lot of lefties in the lineup against me, I'm having to make sure I'm pitching down in the zone and getting in to lefties.
"I made a few pitches up in the zone [last time out against Oakland]. Other than that fifth inning, I felt like I pitched pretty good. My stuff was pretty good, but I made a few pitches up in the zone. If I can work down in the zone and rely on my sinker, make them hit it and put it into play, I'll be just fine."
Royals: Vargas in search of more success
Vargas has built a career as a guy who succeeds in pitching to contact and uses his defense and cavernous home stadiums.
But in his last outing, Vargas broke that mold. The lefty recorded a season-high eight strikeouts in a 3-2 win over the Rockies on Wednesday. His last game with at least eight strikeouts came on Sept. 8, 2013, when he was a member of the Los Angeles Angels.
Vargas will be facing a White Sox lineup that ranks first in the Majors with 409 strikeouts.