Chicago Bruce Chen used an assortment of pitches, changed delivery angles and even let one pitch go at 90 mph. The veteran left-hander kept the Chicago White Sox guessing and had them off-balance for most of the day.
The result: a 4-1 Kansas City Royals’ victory Wednesday that allowed them to win two of three at U.S. Cellular Field.
Kansas City scored some early runs and helped the 34-year-old Chen get his first win in two months.
“Those four runs early in the game made the whole difference. I was able to relax and go after the hitters,” Chen said.
He didn’t give up a hit until the fourth inning when he was able to pitch out of a small jam. But his best inning was the sixth when he faced a no-out, bases loaded predicament and escaped with just one run scoring.
“I made good pitches when I needed to. I didn’t have a very high pitch count, so that helped me,” Chen said. “I kept making pitches and got out of that situation with a win, so that was good for us. ... I just gave everything I had.”
Chen, who was making his third start since coming off the DL, got his first victory in two months, since beating Baltimore on May 5.
“Chen threw the ball pretty good, you give up one run in a big jam, you cannot take anything away from him,” said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who said before the game he might want an at-bat against Chen because the pitcher had experienced trouble against left-handed batters.
But the White Sox are having problems against all types of pitching.
“We continued to struggle at the plate with people in scoring position. We cannot get the big hit,” Guillen said.
“Obviously it’s frustrating when you come out and every inning you think you’re going to score a bunch of runs and you don’t. It’s been like that for a little while. You try to look for the answer and you can’t find it.”
Chen (5-2) allowed four hits and a run and departed after walking A.J. Pierzynski to start the bottom of the seventh. He retired the first nine batters before Juan Pierre singled leading off the bottom of the fourth.
Greg Holland pitched two shutout innings and Joakim Soria worked the ninth for his 15th save in 20 chances.
“Bruce is that pitcher that I’m sure they’re kicking themselves over there for losing to because his stuff isn’t going to overwhelm you, he makes you put the ball in play,” said the Royals’ Jeff Francoeur, who had two RBIs.
The Royals scored in the first off Edwin Jackson (5-7) as Chris Getz walked, stole second, held at third on Melky Cabrera’s single and scored when Alex Gordon grounded into a double play. Hosmer hit his eighth homer leading off the second on a ball that just went over the glove of Chicago center fielder Alex Rios at the wall.
Francoeur delivered a two-out RBI single in the fourth after Gordon led off with a single and advanced on a grounder, making it 3-0. Francoeur hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth after singles by Gordon and Hosmer and Jackson’s wild pitch, extending the Royals’ lead to 4-0.
Jackson allowed eight hits and four runs in seven innings.
After Pierre singled in the fourth and after Adam Dunn walked, he stole second. But Paul Konerko grounded into an inning-ending double play.
The White Sox put together a rally in the sixth, loading the bases with no outs on singles by Rios and Gordon Beckham and a bunt single by Pierre on a close play a first. Dunn drew a one-out walk to force in a run. But Chen slipped a third strike past Konerko — who hopes to make the All-Star team via online voting — and got Carlos Quentin — already on the AL team — to pop out to end the threat.
“He threw well all day. He basically did everything. I felt good going into the game, so anything I did poorly after that was probably a result of the way he threw the ball. You’ve got to give him credit,” Konerko said.
“Sometimes, it’s easier to face a right-hander that has a 95 mph fastball and a real hard slider. Those aren’t fun, either, but at least you know it’s one of the two pitches and you just have to be right on one of them. He was throwing five different pitches in four different areas, so that makes for a lot of different looks.”
Chen finally got his first win against the White Sox in 11 career appearances. He is now 1-3 in those outings, including six starts.