CHICAGO -- With their postseason hopes fading, the Royals desperately needed a pick-me-up.
And they got it from rookie Whit Merrifield, who doubled in two runs off White Sox reliever Chris Beck in the seventh inning to put the Royals up for good on their way to a 6-5 win on Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
Kansas City remained four games behind Baltimore in the American League Wild Card race.
Merrifield's double scored speedsters Terrance Gore and Jarrod Dyson, who were running on the pitch. And it gave rookie Kevin McCarthy, who recorded the final out of the sixth, his first Major League win.
The Royals got a scare when closer Wade Davis ran into trouble in the ninth and the White Sox had the potential tying run on third with one out. But Davis struck out Jose Abreu and Justin Morneau to end it.
"We had a shot at him," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "You don't really get that many opportunities against Wade. He proves every time he goes out there how good he is, and for us, we rarely had some opportunities against him. Tonight, we were in a good spot right there, once [Adam Eaton] hit his double. I think that he's so good in tough situations that he just ended up coming out on top. We had our opportunity."
Added Royals manager Ned Yost, "He had really good stuff -- 97-mph fastball. He got in trouble, but he does what he does best -- he buckles down and gets out of it."
After a rough start, White Sox starter James Shields offered up a quality start, going six innings while allowing four hits and three runs. He walked four and struck out five. Royals starter Edinson Volquez gave up nine hits and four runs through five.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Big game from James: Shields allowed two homers, but was much better than he's been the past month. After allowing Eric Hosmer's two-run blast in the first, he gave up just two more hits in the next five innings. One was the solo homer by Alex Gordon to start the fourth, but Shields shook it off and retired the next six in a row. He set down nine of the final 10 he faced before leaving with a 4-3 lead. Shields came into the game 0-5 with a 12.07 ERA in his previous seven starts.
"A little more walks than I wanted to [give up] today, but to be honest, it seemed like that team changed their game plan a little bit," Shields said. "They were more of a free-swinging team, and they were kind of being really patient with me today. I gave up two homers, but the other two hits were kind of just really weak hits. So, overall pretty good."
Early strike: Hosmer got the Royals off to a quick lead in the first off Shields. Dyson opened the game with a bloop single to left. Two hitters later, Hosmer put a charge into a 90-mph fastball and lofted it into the shrubs beyond the center-field wall. It was Hosmer's 22nd homer -- his previous career high was 19 in 2011.
Sox surged ahead: The White Sox hottest hitter, Abreu, came up big in their two-run fifth. After a two-out double by Melky Cabrera, Abreu drilled a single to left that tied it at 3. Morneau then plated Abreu with his second double for a 4-3 lead. Abreu is hitting .402 with two doubles, nine home runs and 25 RBIs in his past 20 games. Morneau matched his season high in doubles for a game. More >
The Gore effect: Gore's speed once again got in the heads of opposing pitchers, this time it was Beck. The White Sox even pitched out the first two pitches. Gore finally took off and stole second on a 3-0 pitch to Dyson, who then walked. And they both took off when Merrifield hit his double.
"Yeah, it was kind of a red flag when [Beck] stepped off and looked at his catcher, and basically was like, 'I'd never seen that sign before,'" Gore said. "I sort of knew something was on. I knew the first [pitchout] was coming. The second one, I didn't know. But [first-base coach] Rusty [Kuntz] told me don't even go."
Added Merrifield, "It's somewhat of a different focus when you've got guys like Terrance and Dyson and Billy [Burns] that are on base. So you definitely feel a little bit less focus on you."
AFTER FURTHER REVIEW
A strange play unfolded in the sixth. With Avisail Garcia on first, Tyler Saladino lined a ball past Dyson in center field that bounced over the wall for a rule-book double. Both runners got confused, and Garcia wound up heading back to first thinking Dyson had caught the ball. Saladino thought he was out as well, and passed Garcia on the bases. The Royals challenged and it was determined that the runners passed while the ball was dead, so each was declared safe at second and third base.
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: Right-hander Ian Kennedy (10-9, 3.76 ERA) takes the mound on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. CT for the rubber game at U.S. Cellular Field. Kennedy won his fourth straight game on Monday, an 11-5 triumph over Minnesota, giving up four runs and nine hits over 5 1/3 innings.
White Sox: Ace left-hander Chris Sale (15-7, 3.07) will start on Sunday against the Royals, needing seven strikeouts to become the first White Sox pitcher to reach 200 K's in four straight seasons.