KANSAS CITY -- For the third straight game, the Royals lit up the beleaguered White Sox bullpen, this time posting a three-run eighth inning to wipe out a two-run deficit on their way to a 5-4 victory on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium.
The three-game series sweep of the White Sox, who blew 5-1 and 7-1 leads in the first two games, catapulted the Royals into first place in the American League Central. The Indians are one-half game back, and the White Sox are one game out.
"We're back in first place, which is nice," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We're playing good baseball. We were just kind of waiting to click on all cylinders, and we're starting to now."
"We never really lost our swagger," Royals center field Lorenzo Cain said. "We just weren't winning games. But we knew we could bounce back."
White Sox right-hander Nate Jones gave up all three runs, the lead run coming home on rookie Cheslor Cuthbert's infield single with the bases loaded. Cain got the rally started with his seventh homer of the season.
Left-hander Chris Sale went seven innings for the White Sox and gave up seven hits and two runs while walking two and striking out seven.
Right-hander Edinson Volquez went six innings for the Royals and gave up three runs and seven hits.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
LoCain gives early, late spark: Cain got the Royals going in the first inning against Sale. With Whit Merrifield on first, Cain drilled a Sale fastball over center fielder Austin Jackson's head and up against the wall in center. Merrifield scored easily. Cain then came home on Eric Hosmer's sharp single to left-center. Cain then hammered a home run in the eighth inning to start the late rally.
Then came the here-we-go-again feeling for a club that swept the series despite trailing by multiple runs in the seventh inning or later in every game.
"We had a feeling after Cain's homer," Hosmer said. "I think everyone in the stadium was thinking it. It's just kind of how stuff happens here. It's a special place to play. It's a special atmosphere to have as your home field.
"I think it just kind of brings that conversation in the dugout. It brings that conversation up in the stands. I think everyone notices."
Both ends: After his spectacular catch in the first inning, Jackson hit a two-out RBI single to right-center field in the fifth. The hit gave the White Sox the lead at 3-2. They'd add to it in the seventh inning, as Jackson hit a sacrifice fly to right field that scored one run and could've done even more damage if not for a diving catch by right fielder Paulo Orlando.
"I just kind of felt it grab a little bit," Jackson said. "I've never had it before, really didn't know what I was feeling."
Eibner in the clutch: Royals rookie Brett Eibner got the walk-off hit in the victory Saturday, and he was back up in the clutch again Sunday. Eibner was up with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth with the Royals down, 4-3. Eibner didn't chase any bad pitches and drew a walk, forcing in the tying run.
"It being one out, I wanted him to make some pitches," Eibner said. "I choked up and kind of went into a two-strike approach just to make sure to give myself the best opportunity to put it in play and tie it up.
"I shortened everything up, and when it got to 3-0 with him missing like he did, I was taking all the way there. Pressure was on for him to throw a strike. It was the same with the next pitch. I was going to be a little more aggressive, but he didn't make a good pitch and that made it easier on me."
Jackson's snag: With two runs on the board already for the Royals in the first, Kendrys Morales lined the ball deep to center field. As Hosmer rounded second, Jackson reached up and made a tremendous catch, saving a potential run. He stopped himself against the center-field wall, then turned and fired a perfect throw to shortstop Tyler Saladino, who threw Hosmer out at first as the White Sox limited the damage.
"That's huge. That changes the entire landscape of the game," Sale said. "That scores another run, possibly two. For him to make that play changes the whole game."
In the bottom of the second inning, with nobody on and one out, Eibner hit a single to left-center field. He tested Melky Cabrera's arm, trying to stretch it into a double, but was called out. The Royals challenged the out, but were unsuccessful. The replay center ruled Eibner failed to maintain contact with the bag, as the call on the field was confirmed.
WHAT'S NEXT White Sox: The White Sox will continue the road trip in New York, taking on the Mets Monday at 2:10 p.m. CT. Left-hander Jose Quintana (5-4, 2.22 ERA) will be on the mound, looking to snap a personal three-game losing streak.
Royals: Right-hander Ian Kennedy (4-3, 3.38 ERA) gets the start as the Royals open a three-game home set with the Rays at 7:15 p.m. CT on Monday. Kennedy hasn't pitched since last Monday's rain-delayed game against the Twins, in which he went 3 2/3 innings and gave up two runs.