Bruce Chen tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings of five-hit ball and the Kansas City Royals blanked the Chicago White Sox, 3-0, in the second test of a three-game series Wednesday at Kauffman Stadium.
Chen (11-12) struck out four while walking three before Kelvin Herrera recorded 1 1/3 shutout innings in relief. Greg Holland worked around a two-out double in the ninth to nail down his 14th save of the season.
"He's a very good pitcher," Chen said of White Sox starter Chris Sale. "He kept us off-balance, but our offense did a real good job of staying patient and we were able to score three runs."
Alex Gordon clubbed a two-run double and Billy Butler added a sacrifice fly for the Royals, who had lost four of their last five coming in.
Sale (17-7) was pegged with the loss after giving up all three runs on eight hits with eight strikeouts over 6 2/3 frames.
"Baseball's a crazy game and things like that are going to happen," Sale said of the setback. "I feel like every time I pitch against these guys I'm always one pitch away."
Alejandro De Aza registered four of the nine hits for Chicago, which snapped a five-game winning streak and saw its lead atop the AL Central shrink to two games over the Detroit Tigers, who downed Oakland earlier on Wednesday.
The Royals struck first in the third inning as Jason Bourgeois and Alcides Escobar smacked back-to-back one-out singles before Gordon's walk loaded the bases. Butler followed with a sacrifice fly into left field, scoring Bourgeois for a 1-0 lead.
Chicago's best chance to score came in the fourth when it loaded the bases with no outs, but Chen worked out of trouble by popping out Dayan Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez before striking out Tyler Flowers.
Chen retired the first two hitters in the seventh, but issued a two-out walk to Gordon Beckham to mark the end of his outing. Herrera entered and gave up a single to De Aza, but fanned Kevin Youkilis to end the frame.
Kansas City added a pair of insurance runs in the bottom half, as Eric Hosmer stroked a leadoff double and moved to third on Bourgeois' groundout.
Sale then intentionally walked Escobar and Gordon made him pay with a two-out double to left field, scoring Hosmer and Escobar for a 3-0 lead.
The White Sox threatened in the eighth when a pair of two-out singles put runners on the corners, but Herrera struck out Ramirez to end the threat.
De Aza stroked a two-out double in the ninth, but Holland flied out Youkilis to secure the shutout.
Escobar's 167 hits are the most by a regular Royals shortstop in club history, breaking Angel Berroa's mark of 164 set back in 2005 ... The Royals have won 11 of 17 matchups with the White Sox this season ... Kansas City finished 1- for-14 with runners in scoring position, while Chicago went 1-for-12.