Chicago Chris Sale had time to catch his breath. Now, maybe, he’s locked in.
Sale pitched eight solid innings, Paul Konerko and Gordon Beckham homered late, and the Chicago White Sox beat the Kansas City Royals 4-2 on Monday night.
“I went through a little dead arm period, but it’s par for the course,” Sale said. “It’s all behind us now. We’ve got a couple months left and we’re going to have to make a push and it’s not going to be easy.”
The margin for error is slim, with a 1 1/2-game lead over Detroit for the AL Central lead. The Tigers are playing well, but so are the White Sox. And they pulled this one out thanks to a strong start by their pitcher and some big hits toward the end.
Konerko tied it leading off the seventh and Beckham gave the White Sox a 3-2 lead with a solo shot in the eighth off Luis Mendoza. Kevin Youkilis added an RBI double in the inning, and the White Sox won for the 10th time in 13 games.
A.J. Pierzynski added two hits, and although he didn’t go deep after tying a club record with homers in five straight games, he did drive in the first run with a double in the second.
Sale (13-3), meanwhile, looked sharp on nine days’ rest, allowing two runs and eight hits while striking out seven without a walk. He gave up solo homers to Jeff Francoeur and Billy Butler, but otherwise kept the Royals off-balance, with his fastball consistently in the mid-90s mph.
Sale was passed over during the last time through the rotation. The White Sox wanted to give him more rest in his first year as a starter.
“It gives you a little bit more time to recover and catch your breath, I guess you could say, but you’ve still got a couple of months left,” Sale said. “You’ve just got to keep going with it.”
The Royals were impressed.
“If he stays healthy he has a chance to win a bunch of ballgames in his career,” Francoeur said.
Addison Reed worked the ninth for his 20th save in 23 chances, retiring Eric Hosmer on a double-play grounder with runners on first and second to end the game.
Mendoza (5-8) gave up seven hits and four runs in 71/3 innings.
Butler made it 2-1 in the seventh with his 21st homer. Konerko tied it in the bottom half with a line drive to left that just cleared the wall and landed in the bullpen.