CHICAGO -- Right-hander Jeff Samardzija, who tossed a one-hit shutout in his previous outing, came back with seven strong innings allowing just two runs, and Adam Eaton slammed a two-run homer as the White Sox held off the Royals for a 4-2 win on Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
The Royals fell 1 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays, who were rained out, in the race for the American League's best record and home-field advantage throughout the postseason. The Jays hold the tiebreaker based on winning the season series, 4-3.
Samardzija scattered eight hits, and the White Sox benefited from two great defensive plays to maintain the lead. Left fielder Trayce Thompson made a spectacular diving catch in seventh to rob Ben Zobrist of at least an RBI double. Then in the eighth inning with the potential tying run on second, Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas raked a liner toward left that third baseman Mike Olt speared on a lunge.
"I thought we swung the bats really well," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "They made two great plays or we would have tied the game."
"We played some nice defense tonight. Trayce, we've moved him around in the outfield and he can play anywhere in the outfield," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "He's a great defender and it doesn't matter really where he's playing,"
"I thought Johnny threw really well," Yost said. "He kept us in the game. He threw a changeup to Eaton that kind of faded back into the plate."
Tuesday's victory gave the White Sox 74 for the season, meaning they have one more than they did in all of 2014.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Back-to-back jacks: The Royals hadn't scored since Sunday, and had gone 17 innings without a run when suddenly they broke loose with the homers in the sixth. First, Hosmer smoked a liner to left off Samardzija, an opposite-field blast that was his 17th of the season. Then, Morales reached for a low splitter and muscled it over the left-field fence for his 22nd blast of the season. It was the first back-to-back jacks for the Royals since July 25, 2014. More >
"It was just one of those games," Hosmer said. "We battled back and we almost got it tied. That Thompson catch was one of the best all year."
No. 1 touches all four: Eaton extended his career high for home runs with No. 14 in the fifth inning, scoring Carlos Sanchez ahead of him. Eaton has scored 95 runs and driven in 53, both of which are also career highs.
"It caught the barrel just right and had some backspin to it," Eaton said. "Wind aided of course, like all my home runs that I have had this year. Windy day."
Game-saving grab: Thompson had a home run taken away leading off the second on a leaping catch at the center-field wall by Lorenzo Cain. But he sort of evened the score in the seventh by making a diving catch in left-center to take away extra bases from Zobrist. With Alcides Escobar on first, the tying run would have scored if Thompson didn't make the play. More >
"Shark has taken care of me on and off the field a lot. All these pitchers have been great to me so it's nice to help them out," Thompson said. "Seeing them get pumped up after a catch like that is the most gratifying for me. It was a lot of fun."
Samardzija went a total of 41 straight batters without going to a three-ball count before throwing three out of the zone to Cain with two out in the third. Of his last 58 hitters faced, Samardzija has gone to three-ball counts on just two of them. More >
Escobar appeared to throw out Jose Abreu on a grounder in the hole, but Abreu was ruled safe. The Royals challenged and the call was overturned seemingly immediately -- just 38 seconds.
"Unbelievable. Unbelievable. I've seen some good catches before, been a part of a couple here and there, and that was one of the coolest ones I've seen in awhile. He closed a big gap on the ball and sold out for it." -- Samardzija, on Thompson's catch
"I think you can tell by my reaction. What a tremendous athlete he is. I don't know if I have seen somebody go all out. I don't know if he is 6-4 or whatever he is, but he was all out." -- Eaton, on Thompson's catch.
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: Right-hander Edinson Volquez (13-9, 3.65 ERA) will get the ball on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. CT for the middle game of this series at U.S. Cellular Field. Volquez is coming off two nearly identical starts, allowing three runs in six innings, including a loss to the Indians on Friday.
White Sox: Left-hander Jose Quintana (9-10, 3.38) will start the rematch of this series on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Quintana will be looking for his single season-high 10th win and ranks eighth in the AL in ERA. He is 2 2/3 innings shy of 200.