KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- New White Sox, same old Royals.
Bruce Chen stymied a revamped White Sox offense for seven innings and Salvador Perez delivered another big hit late as the Kansas City Royals held on for a 4-3 win in front of 21,463 at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Perez revived his team’s chances in the bottom of the eighth inning with a two-out, RBI double to left field off Maikel Cleto shortly after the Royals’ bullpen blew a two-run lead. Losers of three straight, the White Sox send Chris Sale to the mound Sunday in order to avoid a sweep by Kansas City.
“He’s tough,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of Perez. “They’ve always had some late stuff against and we’ve got to be able to stop them.”
Trailing 3-1, the White Sox tied the game in the eighth inning off Royals reliever Wade Davis on a Conor Gillaspie RBI single and a Paul Konerko sacrifice fly.
But Alex Gordon doubled to deep right-center off Scott Downs with two outs.
With first base open, Ventura elected to call upon Cleto face Perez, who is hitting .538 with two RBIs, instead of having his lefty Downs walk Perez and face Mike Moustakas, who is hitless in 15 at-bats. Perez ripped a 0-1 slider past third base for the winning hit.
The White Sox, who would have pulled ahead in the eighth had Nori Aoki not robbed Alexei Ramirez of extra bases, got the first man aboard in the ninth inning against Royals closer Greg Holland and pinch runner Leury Garcia stole second base. But Holland struck out Adam Eaton and Marcus Semien and got Jose Abreu to ground out to preserve the win.
“You could do that, but you start putting more guys on base, it just becomes different,” Ventura said of the choice to face Perez. “You trust Cleto going out there and you give credit to Perez. You’re still going to get a matchup like that regardless. But Downer did his job.”
Not surprisingly so did Chen.
Even though they got two of the first three runners on base three times in five innings, the White Sox were only able to produce one run against the left-hander on an Adam Eaton RBI groundout in the fifth.
With his funky assortment of offspeed pitches, Chen had the White Sox spellbound. He allowed an unearned run and six hits while striking out seven over 6 1/3 innings.
“It’s proof to the testament that you don’t have to throw 95 to get guys out,” Gillaspie said. “He makes very few mistakes, and he relies on guys that just can’t wait for the mistakes. He’s really effective. … We’re just not used to seeing low 80s, and it’s very effective.”
Aside from one inning when he went into what he said was “damage-control mode”, so was John Danks.
The White Sox would probably be very pleased if Danks could repeatedly replicate Saturday’s start all season long. Danks kept the White Sox within striking distance with a seven-inning, 115-pitch effort.
He may have gone even further had he not suffered a 38-pitch inning in the fourth when the first six Royals batters reached and two runs were scored.
But Danks got a break when Eric Hosmer overran third base on a broken-bat single by Gordon and was caught in a rundown. After an RBI single by Billy Butler and a bases-loaded walk to Mike Moustakas, Danks stranded the bases loaded with strikeouts of Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar.
Danks retired the last seven batters he faced and allowed three earned runs and five hits with four walks while striking out six.
“I felt like I had pretty good stuff,” Danks said. “I was able to make the ball move. Obviously four walks isn’t acceptable. That’s something to build on.”