In his first start back from an extended rest, Chris Sale's velocity was back where it should be -- between 92 and 95 mph. The score wasn't, and with the game tied at 2 in the eighth, it was on the brink of getting away from him.
Tony Abreu led off with a double and moved to third on Chris Getz's single up the middle to put runners on the corners with nobody out. It was Sale's mess to clean up.
He started by sawing off Alex Gordon, and Alexei Ramirez made a terrific diving catch on the infield dirt. It's possible that the Sox could have gotten the out at second had Ramirez let it bounce, but with the weird spin off the shattered bat, maybe a run would have scored.
That was huge. The next development loomed even larger. Alcides Escobar laid down a bunt in what looked like a safety squeeze, but the Royals are a team that can shoot themselves in the foot with an unloaded gun. Abreu broke for home on contact, and not a moment sooner. The bunt rolled more toward the mound than the first base line, and Sale's natural follow-through carried him right toward the plate. He picked up the ball and tagged Abreu by running into him 10 feet in front of the plate for the second out.
That set up Sale's nastiest sequence of the evening -- a slider on the inside corner, a fastball on the inside corner, and a fastball just above the letters. Lorenzo Cain took the first two, swung at the third, and had no chance at any of them. Sale escaped the inning.
Sale's line was great: 8 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K. He allowed a pair of solo homers -- one on a plate-splitting slider to Billy Butler, and one off the plate to Jeff Francouer, who was leaning way out and took it to right field. Otherwise, his stuff proved overwhelming, even though his command was limited to the outside corner most of the night.
But it looked like he might have nothing to show for it. The Sox haven't hit Luis Mendoza well since he became a Royal, and there weren't many confidence-inspiring swings tonight. He was controlling the inside of the plate, and the Sox couldn't pick up his off-speed stuff, either.
Or at least they didn't until he hung a slider to Gordon Beckham to start the eighth. Beckham got every piece of it, sending a 404-foot homer into the seats in left. His first homer since June 20 gave the Sox a 3-2 lead.
And they actually added to it! Jordan Danks drew his first career walk, then came around to score on Kevin Youkilis' double to right-center that Francoeur couldn't cut off. That put the ball in Addison Reed's hands, and although he put the tying runs on base with a cheap error and legit single, a 3-6-1 double play sealed Sale's 13th victory of the season.
Prior to the eighth, the Sox's offense output was limited to two brief, isolated outbursts. In the second, Alex Rios tripled on another weird effort by Francoeur, then came around to score on A.J. Pierzynski's double. In the seventh, Paul Konerko answered Butler's solo shot with one of his own to lead off the inning.
- A.J. Pierzynski failed to hit a homer for the first time in six games, settling for a double and a single instead.
- Ramirez was tagged with his 10th error with one out in the ninth, and it was a harsh call. Salvador Perez hit one off the end of his bat over the bag at second, and I thought Ramirez made a pretty good play to corral a weird hop and get off a throw, even if he bobbled it a little.
- Ramirez was hit by a high-and-tight fastball that sent him rolling to the ground in great pain. He stayed in the game. Alejandro De Aza, who sat out with back stiffness, yielded the lead to Ramirez in heart-stopping reactions to scary plays.
Record: 60-48 | Box score | Play-by-play