Chris Sale was the surprising ace of the Chicago White Sox rotation in the first half, but he's labored over the last two months.
Sale will try to avoid a third straight losing start Saturday and help the White Sox end a frustrating six-game skid against the visiting Kansas City Royals .
Central-leading Chicago holds a one-game lead over Detroit and Sale (15-6, 2.93 ERA) is among the biggest reasons why.
The White Sox (74-63) especially need him to regain his form after a 7-5 loss in Friday's series opener. Closer Addison Reed gave up a two-run homer in the ninth to Lorenzo Cain - his second of the game - and Chicago went 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position.
The Royals (62-76) have matched a franchise record with six straight wins against the White Sox, accomplished most recently in 1982."They're just as formidable as anybody," Paul Konerko said of Kansas City. "We realize that, and we certainly don't go into games taking them lightly, so it's no surprise to us."
Friday's loss was the eighth in 11 games overall for Chicago, which continues to struggle with timely hitting. It leads the majors with a .285 average with runners in scoring position, but is batting .191 (13 for 68) in those situations over the last seven games.
"We can get them on, but we are having problems getting them in," manager Robin Ventura said.
Sale is experiencing a similar sense of futility. After going 11-2 with a 2.11 ERA to start the season, he is 4-4 with a 4.64 ERA over his last eight starts.
The left-hander allowed five home runs over his first 110 2-3 innings this year, but has given up 12 over the last 52 1-3, including two in a 4-2 loss at Detroit on Sunday.
He surrendered four runs and tied a career high with four walks over six innings in that game.
"I've been giving up a lot of home runs lately and that's just not getting it done," Sale said. "It can't happen, especially now at this time of the year when games count and you need wins."
While he's lost his last two starts, both were on the road, and he's had much better success at home, winning four straight starts and seven consecutive decisions there since losing to Kansas City on May 12. He has a 1.74 ERA at U.S. Cellular Field this year.
Sale is 2-2 with a 3.25 ERA against the Royals this season, giving up four runs and nine hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 4-2 road loss on Aug. 17.
He'll want to pitch carefully to Salvador Perez , who homered Friday and is hitting .387 with eight RBIs in eight games against the White Sox this year.
Another Royal that enjoys playing in Chicago is scheduled starter Bruce Chen (10-11, 5.28), who has won four straight starts there while recording a 1.34 ERA in his last five outings at U.S. Cellular Field.
However, Chen struggled in an 8-4 loss to Texas on Monday, surrendering a career high-tying four homers and six runs over six innings.
The left-hander has given up two runs in each of his last two starts against the White Sox. Konerko is 8 for 39 (.205) in their matchups, but four of those hits have left the park.
The White Sox hope to get Adam Dunn back after the slugger sat out Friday with a strained oblique, which also sidelined him two games last weekend. Third baseman Kevin Youkilis left the team to be with his wife, who is expected to give birth to their first child.
|Kansas City Royals|
|August 18, 2012||Chris Getz||15-Day DL||Broken left thumb|
|August 17, 2012||Chris Getz||Day-to-Day||Left game - fractured left thumb|
|July 28, 2012||Mike Moustakas||Day-to-Day||Left game - sprained right knee|
|July 05, 2012||Luke Hochevar||Day-to-Day||Sprained right ankle|
|June 18, 2012||Chris Getz||15-Day DL||Lateral strain in lower left leg|
|June 18, 2012||Chris Getz||15-Day DL||Lateral strain in lower left leg|
|Chicago White Sox|
|September 07, 2012||Adam Dunn||Day-to-Day||Strained right oblique|
|August 27, 2012||Gavin Floyd||15-Day DL||Right elbow flexor strain|
|August 26, 2012||Gavin Floyd||Day-to-Day||Right elbow discomfort|
|August 25, 2012||Dayan Viciedo||Day-to-Day||Right shoulder soreness|
|August 19, 2012||Kevin Youkilis||Day-to-Day||Sore right knee|
|August 18, 2012||Alejandro De Aza||15-Day DL||Bruised left ribcage|
CHICAGO (AP) -- The White Sox reversed a couple of bad trends and held off Kansas City to break an unlikely skid to the Royals.
Dayan Viciedo , Tyler Flowers and Paul Konerko each homered to back Chris Sale 's six solid innings and lead Chicago to a 5-4 win over the Royals on Saturday.
Sale (16-6) scattered five hits and struck out six over six innings, winning his eighth straight decision at U.S. Cellular Field and helping Chicago end a six-game skid against Kansas City.
"They've been tough on us," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "It's one of those where it's good to get a win. You beat a good pitcher and get ready for tomorrow."
Sale allowed six baserunners in the first three innings before settling down to retire the last 10 batters he faced.
Addison Reed finished up, extending his White Sox rookie record with his 26th save. He allowed a two-out double to Mike Moustakas on a muffed play by left fielder Jordan Danks . Brayan Pena and Johnny Giavotella stroked RBI singles, and pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson stole second, but Lorenzo Cain struck out to end the game.
"That's one of those he had to work a little harder than he should have," Ventura said. "But just talking to him, he's the one with the ball in his hands. Keep his confidence and keep going."
Reed was loser in Friday's game when he allowed two runs in the ninth.
"I was just focused on the next guy," Reed said. "(Danks) lost it in the lights. It's part of the game. I mean, I wasn't mad or anything. I was just trying to get the next guy."
Viciedo hit a solo homer in the first for the game's first run. Flowers connected with a two-run shot in the fourth and Konerko had a solo blast in the sixth. All three homers came off Bruce Chen (10-12), who had won his last four starts in Chicago.
"(Chen) seems to always to be pretty effective against us," Flowers said. "Locates, doesn't make too many mistakes. I guess he made a few today.
"Beating Chen, it really doesn't matter to us. We're just glad to get the win out of this."
Chicago also hit three homers in Friday's 7-5 loss and has gone deep 28 times in its last 14 home games. Chen has allowed seven homers over his last two starts and 31 on the season, two shy of his career high.
"It's been a rough week for our pitching staff, home run-wise," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I think we've given up 16 homers in the last week. That's a lot of homers."
Despite the loss, the Royals have dominated the season series against the first-place White Sox, winning nine of 14 meetings. The six straight wins against Chicago matched a Kansas City record first set in 1982.
Chicago had lost eight of 11 overall entering the game but still held a one-game lead over Detroit in the AL Central. The White Sox have had at least a share of the division lead since July 24.
Sale improved to 9-2 with a 1.72 ERA in 12 starts on his home field.
"It's always nice pitching at home in front of your home crowd and being at home," Sale said. "I don't know. I couldn't pinpoint anything exactly but it's just kind of how it is."
Flowers, who walked twice, is hitting .356 with five homers and 10 RBIs in his last 11 games after hitting .182 with two homers in his first 33.
"Obviously it's easier for Robin to put me in there when I've got a good swing going and show some competitive at-bats," Flowers said. "I feel the same, I was confident the first half too. Just hard to get in rhythm sometimes."
Konerko hit his 22nd homer in the sixth, his first round-tripper since Aug. 21.
NOTES: DH Adam Dunn missed his second straight game because of a strained right oblique. Dunn originally suffered the injury at Baltimore on Aug. 30, then reaggravated it on Wednesday. Ventura said Dunn will have to pass a series of tests by the team's training staff before returning to action. ... 3B Kevin Youkilis missed his second straight game after returning home to be with his wife, who gave birth to a boy on Friday. Ventura said Youkilis may return to the team on Sunday. ... The White Sox are the only team in the majors with five players who have hit at least 20 homers, with Viciedo joining A.J. Pierzynski, Dunn, Alex Rios and Konerko ... Salvador Perez extended his career-best hitting streak to 13 games with a single off Sale in the second.