While Chris Sale 's impressive season has him among the leading contenders for the AL Cy Young Award, his biggest concern is getting the Chicago White Sox back to the postseason.
Sale will try to help the AL Central leaders win their sixth straight Wednesday night when they continue their road series against the Kansas City Royals .
Chicago (81-66) maintained its three-game division lead over Detroit with a 3-2 win Tuesday. Alex Rios hit the team's third solo homer of the game in the seventh to snap a tie and Gavin Floyd pitched seven strong innings in his second start off the disabled list.
Alejandro De Aza and Gordon Beckham also went deep for the White Sox, who have allowed 11 runs during their five-game streak.
"We're no way content," Floyd said. "We're content in the place that we are, but there's still a lot of baseball left. It's fun to be in the position we're at. We've just got to keep pushing."
Chicago hasn't had much success against Kansas City this season, losing 10 of 16 meetings, but it can secure a second series victory Wednesday.
Sale (17-6, 2.78 ERA) seeks a third straight winning start and his second against the Royals during that span.
The left-hander, who ranks among the AL's top five in wins, ERA and opponent batting average (.222), scattered three hits over six innings of a 6-0 win at Minnesota on Friday.
"When you start thinking about things like that you get a little selfish, and what's really important slips away," Sale said of individual accolades. "I want to play for this team. I'm not trying to win any awards or anything like that. The only award I want is a big, shiny trophy at the end."
Sale, looking to become the first White Sox starter to win 18 games since Jon Garland in 2006, is 3-2 with a 2.94 ERA in five starts against the Royals this season. He limited Kansas City to one run and five hits over six innings of a 5-4 win at U.S. Cellular Field on Sept. 8.
Several Royals hitters have given Sale trouble, including Billy Butler , who is 6 for 16 with a pair of home runs against him this year.
Butler had a two-run single in the first inning Tuesday, extending his hitting streak to 10 games. He's driven in 10 runs during his run, and has a career-high 97 RBIs this season.
Carlos Beltran in 2003 was the last Kansas City player to have 100 RBIs in a season.
The Royals (66-81), who have dropped four of five, will hand the ball to Bruce Chen (10-12, 5.42), the losing pitcher opposite Sale earlier this month. He gave up five runs and six hits - three of them homers - in six innings.
That was the first of two straight losses for Chen, who left without a decision against the Los Angeles Angels on Friday after yielding five runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings.
The left-hander is 2-1 with a 5.79 ERA in four starts against Chicago this year, giving up eight homers. Chen has held Paul Konerko to two hits in 11 at-bats in 2012 but both have left the park.
|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 27, 2012||Gavin Floyd||15-Day DL||Right elbow flexor strain|
|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|
|Kansas City Royals|
|September 18, 2012||Luis Mendoza||Day-to-Day||Strep throat|
|September 14, 2012||Lorenzo Cain||Day-to-Day||Left game - Strained right hamstring|
|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|
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Bruce Chen had already pitched out of trouble each of the first three innings when the Royals left-hander issued a pair of walks and served up a base hit to Alex Rios in the fourth.
The bases were loaded, there was nobody out and the White Sox - one of the hottest teams in baseball and winners of five straight - were poised to deliver the crushing blow.
It never happened.
Never even came close.
Chen managed to retire three straight batters without a ball getting out of the infield, and then carried on into the seventh inning. Billy Butler 's sacrifice fly and a two-run double by Alex Gordon was enough to give the Royals a 3-0 victory over the AL Central leaders Wednesday night.
" Bruce Chen was right on top of his game," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I told him after he was done, `You did a great job of pitching yourself into trouble in the fourth inning and even a better job of pitching yourself out of it.' Bruce did a phenomenal job."
Chen (11-12) scattered five hits and three walks over 6 2-3 innings to win for just the second time in six starts. The crafty veteran also stranded a runner on second in the sixth before getting some help from reliever Kelvin Herrera to escape more trouble in the seventh.
Herrera then pitched around two base runners in the eighth, and Greg Holland yielded a two-out double in the ninth before finishing for his 14th save in 17 chances.
"We didn't panic," Chen said. "We stuck to our game plan."
Alcides Escobar finished with three hits, all of them off Chicago ace Chris Sale (17-7), and the Royals who staved off official elimination for one more day. The White Sox (81-67) had their lead in the division trimmed to two games over the Detroit Tigers .
"This one stinks and you have to move on," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said.
Chicago will be happy to move on from playing the Royals and start rooting for them.
Kansas City improved to 8-2 in their last 10 meetings by evening the three-game series, and a win in the finale Thursday night would make the Royals 6-1 in the teams' last seven series.
They could become Chicago's biggest ally down the stretch, though. Kansas City plays seven of its final 13 games against second-place Detroit, beginning with a four-game series Monday.
"We're going to have to win no matter what. We have to take care of our business," Ventura said. "It's difficult when you play like this."
The White Sox wasted another strong start by Sale by going 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position, stranding four at third base, four more at second and three at first.
Chicago also went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position in winning the series opener.
Meanwhile, the Royals scratched out a run in the third on a sacrifice fly by Butler, and then bore down behind Eric Hosmer 's leadoff double and Escobar's intentional walk in the seventh.
After a brief visit at the mound, Sale remained in the game to face Gordon, and he walloped a pitch to the wall in left. It appeared that Viciedo would have room to make the catch, but the ball fell onto the track for a double, allowing two runs to cross and giving Kansas City a 3-0 lead.
"Our approach is not to try to do too much against Sale with his kind of stuff, his deceptive delivery," Gordon said. "Just stay simple and make something happen."
The three runs were enough to give the 23-year-old Sale his third loss against Kansas City - he's only lost four other times this season. He's also just 2-5 over his last seven road starts.
"Chen came out and threw as well as he's ever pitched tonight against us," Sale said, his voice barely above a whisper. "He out-pitched me tonight."
NOTES: Alejandro De Aza matched a career high with four hits for Chicago. He was a homer shy of the cycle. ... LHP Francisco Liriano will pitch the series finale for Chicago against RHP Jeremy Guthrie . ... Both managers announced their weekend rotations. The White Sox will go with Jake Peavy , Jose Quintana and Gavin Floyd against the Angels, while the Royals will start Luis Mendoza , Will Smith and Jake Odorizzi against Cleveland. Odorizzi will be making his big league debut.