In their first six meetings at Kauffman Stadium this year, the White Sox blew six leads in the sixth inning and later.
This time, the Royals felt that late-inning pain. Carlos Sanchez came up with his second big hit in as many games, following up his walk-off on Thursday with a three-run shot off Kelvin Herrera in the eighth inning, putting the White Sox ahead 6-4 and in the lead for good.
Sanchez’s already-sweet homer packed an even bigger punch considering the way the inning started. With one out and nobody on, Todd Frazier took offense to a high and tight 1-0 pitch. A two-run lead in the eighth inning wouldn’t normally be the best time to send a message, but Frazier did hit a three-run homer off Herrera in the Sox' only previous victory at Kauffman this year, and Herrera would have the longest rap sheet on the KC staff if it weren’t for Yordano Ventura.
Whether there was anything behind the pitch, the Sox avenged it anyway. First, Frazier shot a double past third, then scored on Alex Avila’s single to center. Avila had a favorable count thanks to Herrera’s control, which seemed to get away from him after the Frazier at-bat. He walked Avisail Garcia, and then fell behind 3-1 to Sanchez. Sanchez swung and missed with a big cut, but he found another fastball to his liking and hit a sky-high fly that carried well over the wall in the right field corner.
The Sox went from handing Kansas City’s season a lifeline to stepping on its neck. Melky Cabrera added an insurance shot off Peter Moylan in the ninth, and Chris Sale went the distance for his elusive 16th win. The Royals have now lost five in a row, and Royals Review has thrown in the towel.
Sale looked like he was going to get a complete game of the eight-inning variety, as his bid for a perfect game and a shutout disappeared in the fifth. His defense didn’t help him out. After Cheslor Cuthbert doubled to put runners on second and third, Sale induced a hard hopper from Hunter Dozier. Tyler Saladino fielded it, but on his heels, and he got under the throw and fired wide. Jose Abreu tried to catch the ball while maintaining contact with the bag and accomplished neither, and the ball got away for a "single" and an error, tying the game at 2.
An inning later, the Royals seized the lead when Billy Burns led off with a bunt single and Whit Merrifield tripled. Sale came back to strike out Eric Hosmer, but Kendrys Morales lined a hanging breaking ball to left for an RBI single and a 4-2 lead.
Sale had been economical in good times and bad. The Royals followed up an 0-for-13 streak to start the game with a 7-for-10 stretch, but Sale still didn’t top 20 pitches in an inning, even when they were hitting him. He rebounded from the rough fifth and sixth to finish eight innings on 101 pitches, and Robin Ventura, probably seeing no reason to argue with Sale anymore, sent him out for the ninth. Sale stayed in after a one-out walk to Alcides Escobar, finishing the game with a flyout and a strikeout to close out his sixth complete game of the year on 119 pitches. He allowed eight hits and a walk while striking out 10.
His counterpart, Ian Kennedy, had the opposite fortune, enduring a few rocky, inefficient innings to start his game before settling in. The Sox collected two hits off him in the first, three walks in the second and two hits in the third, but they could only scratch across two runs on outs (a Leury Garcia fielder’s choice and a Frazier sac fly).
Kennedy had crossed the 70-pitch mark through three, but he ended up finishing six on 111 pitches. Ned Yost’s plans may have come undone in the seventh, as Matt Strahm handled Adam Eaton’s bunt too casually to get him at first, and Saladino kept the inning alive with a single. In came Herrera, who got Abreu on one pitch to escape the jam, but still had to come back out to pitch an inning, something he doesn’t normally do.
*Sale became the first White Sox pitcher to throw six consecutive starts of eight innings since Jack McDowell in his last six starts before the strike in 1994.
*Tim Anderson entered as a defensive replacement for Saladino in the ninth, which tells everybody something.
*Leury Garcia started in center and made a nice diving catch to take some stress off Sale starting the ninth.
*Avila picked up his 10th RBI. It's Sept. 16.