CHICAGO -- Danny Duffy gave up one run over eight-plus innings and the Royals finished off three wins in four games this weekend against the White Sox with a 4-1 victory at U.S. Cellular Field on Sunday. This rough four-game stretch dropped Chicago to a season-worst 13 games behind Kansas City in the American League Central.
Duffy fanned four, walked one and allowed more than one runner on base in just two innings. The loss was especially tough for the White Sox with Chris Sale, their ace and four-time All-Star, suffering the setback in his first second-half start. Sale lasted 6 1/3 innings, yielding 11 hits, including home runs to Lorenzo Cain and former White Sox Minor Leaguer Paulo Orlando.
"To come in here and win three out of four was big for us," said Royals manager Ned Yost. "It's a good way to start off the second half." More >
Eric Hosmer had three hits off of Sale, one of four Royals with multihit efforts. Melky Cabrera had two hits for the White Sox, but with the team trailing, 1-0, in the second, Cabrera was thrown out trying to go from second to third on Avisail Garcia's grounder to shortstop Alcides Escobar.
"You have to tip your hat to them because they played better than us in this series," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "I think even yesterday we had a chance to win it and it didn't happen, but I like the way our guys battled. Today, they just played better than us." More >
Chicago's only run came on Tyler Saladino's first career homer leading off the ninth. Duffy exited after allowing the home run, leaving Joe Blanton to pick up his first career save. Blanton was the only member of the Royals' bullpen not used in Saturday's 13-inning win.
"I was relieved to see it go out. But for a split second, that's all it was," said Saladino, who got the baseball back, but was disappointed the 360-foot blast didn't come in a victory. "Put a run on the board and the other guys [are] coming up, get something going. It was nice to see it go out, though."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Connecting again: Cain continued his tear against the White Sox this weekend when he homered to left-center in the sixth inning. In four games, he finished the series 6-for-16 with two home runs, a double and six RBIs. It was Cain's 10th home run of the season and third-career shot against Sale -- the only pitcher off whom Cain has hit multiple home runs.
Cain hasn't just been successful against the White Sox, though. He's hit safely in 13 of his last 14 games, posting a .472 batting average with 13 runs scored.
"Cain has been the one guy that has been the most consistent that we've had all year long. He hasn't gone through any extended cold streaks," Yost said before the game. "I was thinking the other day after the All-Star Game, I was having a hard time trying to think of a more underrated player than Lorenzo Cain in the American League."
Sound familiar?: The White Sox had runners on second and third with one out in the sixth inning, and Jose Abreu and Cabrera ready to face Duffy. But Abreu struck out swinging on the ninth pitch of his at-bat and Cabrera struck out looking on the eighth pitch of his at-bat. Great scoring opportunity, but no runs.
Power hitters?: Despite sitting 26th in the Majors in home runs, the Royals hit two on the day, including a two-run shot from Orlando in the seventh inning. Orlando's homer off Sale was the Royals' fifth of the weekend, including two on Friday and Cain's blast on Saturday.
"Cain's home run was big too, gave us the two-run lead, and then Paulo kind of was the ice cream on top of the cake there for us," Yost said.
Good news, bad news: The good news for Sale is that he reached 900 career strikeouts with his six Sunday against the Royals. The bad news is that he was unable to last at least seven innings for just the third time since May 6. The Royals also produced the first double-digit hit effort against Sale this season.
"I tried to get out of the dugout as fast as I could. I knew my pitch count was getting up there. But quite honestly, I appreciate Ned and [pitching coach] Dave [Eiland] giving me the opportunity to go back out there, having the confidence in me to finish the job. I would have liked to, I would have loved to, but a win is a win." -- Duffy, on heading out to pitch the ninth inning
"We just couldn't get anything going. And [Sale], probably not his best fastball command today. He still has good stuff but it just wasn't good enough today." -- Ventura, on Sunday's loss
LEFT IS USUALLY RIGHT FOR SALE Alex Gordon stood as the only left-handed hitter with double-digit career hits against Sale entering Sunday, as the injured Royals left fielder has 14. But with Hosmer's three hits, he joined Gordon in that exclusive group with 10 all-time against Sale.
Sale has given up four home runs over his last three starts, compared to four over his previous eight.
For the second time this weekend, Yost successfully challenged a call at first base involving White Sox third baseman Saladino. With runners on first and second, Duffy's throw to first on a bunt went high, and first-base umpire Jordan Baker originally ruled Saladino safe. But the call was overturned as second baseman Omar Infante pulled it down in time after a terrific leap.
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: The Royals return to Interleague play when they host the Pirates on Monday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Yordano Ventura gets the nod for his second start since coming off the disabled list. In his last outing, Ventura went five innings while allowing three runs for his fourth win of the season.
White Sox:Carlos Rodon makes his first second-half start when the White Sox open a two-game series against the Cardinals Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field at 7:10 p.m. CT. Rodon is 1-2 with a 5.61 ERA over his last five starts.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and listen to his podcast. Greg Garno is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.