KANSAS CITY -- The Royals' once vaulted bullpen is springing leaks everywhere.
This time it was Kelvin Herrera who was called upon to protect a two-run lead against the White Sox. Herrera promptly gave up four runs -- three on Carlos Sanchez's first homer this season -- in the eighth inning of a 7-4 loss on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium.
It was the seventh bullpen meltdown since Aug. 30, and the Royals' fifth straight loss. Their number for postseason elimination dropped to nine as they fell seven games back in the American League Wild Card standings.
"For some reason, I got loose with my command," Herrera said. "It's a tough league."
As for the 3-2 pitch to Sanchez, Herrera said, "I was trying to go in. It went back over the middle."
White Sox left-hander Chris Sale carried a perfect game into the fifth before Salvador Perez singled with one out. Sale went the distance for the sixth time this season, giving up eight hits, four runs (three earned), walking one and striking out 10.
"As a starting pitcher, job No. 1 is going out there every fifth day. After that it's about filling up innings -- for me personally anyways," Sale said. "So, yeah, I take a lot of pride in that.
"I like going out there and saving my guys. Regardless of whether we have X-amount of guys if they are fresh or whatever, I still like giving them the day off."
Royals starter Ian Kennedy (12-9) struggled mightily with his command though two innings, throwing 54 pitches, and walked three. But Kennedy began to attack hitters after that and made it through six innings, giving up five hits and two runs.
"I don't think I was missing by much," Kennedy said. "For the most part, they were good misses. But I was able to get through it. I had to talk my way into pitching the sixth. I wanted to because our bullpen has been pretty taxed lately."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Out of nowhere: Perez got things going in the fifth with a solid single up the middle with one out -- the first runner to reach off Sale. Cheslor Cuthbert then lined a shot just fair down the third-base line, sending Perez to third with two out. Rookie Hunter Dozier, who got his first big league hit on Thursday, hit a hard one-hopper gloved by shortstop Tyler Saladino, who threw wide to first allowing both runners to score. Dozier was credited with a single and his first RBI. More >
"He's such a tough pitcher," Dozier said of Sale. "I got a fastball and I hit it pretty hard, but they were shaded in the six-hole and I knew I had to hustle. Luckily, I got a hit there and we got two runs."
Quick change: The deepest Sale has ever taken a no-hit bid was on May 12, 2013, when he retired the first 19 Angels before Mike Trout's single to center. Trout stood as the only baserunner in Sale's complete game, with the southpaw facing 28 hitters. On Friday, Sale retired the first 13, but after Perez singled on an 0-2 fastball, the Royals started a run of seven hits in 10 at-bats. Sale retired 10 of the last 12 batters and picked up his first win at Kauffman Stadium since April 6, 2014. He also produced his 35th career double-digit strikeout effort.
"You don't go out there expecting to," Sale said of throwing a no-hitter. "You have it in the back of your mind it would be good, but no-hitters and perfect games, they don't pass them out too easily."
Big hit from Whit: After Billy Burns reached on a bunt single leading off the sixth, Whit Merrifield jumped on a Sale fastball and smashed it to the gap in left-center. Burns scored easily and the speedy Merrifield motored into third with a triple as the Royals went up 3-2. After Sale struck out Eric Hosmer, Kendrys Morales poked a slider into left field, giving the Royals a 4-2 lead.
Could have been: Kennedy walked the bases loaded in the second, issuing free passes to Todd Frazier, Alex Avila and Avisail Garcia. But the White Sox managed one run on Leury Garcia 's slow roller to third. The White Sox had second and third with one out in the third after Jose Abreu's single and Melky Cabrera's double, but again they scored one on Frazier's sacrifice fly.
"You have to give credit to my team, my catchers, and not only that, but to Robin. He's letting me get extended a little bit. A lot of people are afraid to let guys get over the 110-pitch mark. We go based on feel … if I'm feeling good. He came up and asked me after the eighth. I know how I felt and we went from there." -- Sale, who threw 119 pitches on Friday and has thrown 118-to-120 in five of his last six starts
WHAT'S NEXT White Sox: Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez missed a little under one month on the disabled list, but he will try to pick up his third straight quality start since returning on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium. When Gonzalez last pitched pitch in Kansas City on Aug. 11, he exited after one inning due to a right groin strain.
Royals: In the second of this four-game wraparound series on Saturday at 6:15 p.m. CT, left-hander Jason Vargas makes his first start coming off rehab from Tommy John surgery in 2015. Vargas will be on about a 45-pitch limit. Right-hander Dillon Gee, who had been the scheduled starter, likely will pitch after Vargas.