Runs were hard to come by in the contest, which featured a duel between Sale and Royals starter Bruce Chen. But, after getting a run on a sacrifice fly in the third inning, the Royals offense took advantage of another chance in the bottom of the seventh.
Eric Hosmer doubled to lead off the inning and moved to third on a one-out groundout. Sale then intentionally walked Alcides Escobar, who had singled in each of his first three at-bats, to bring up Alex Gordon. After a mound visit from manager Robin Ventura, Gordon lined a double off the left-field wall past Dayan Viciedo, who couldn't make the catch. The hit scored both runners and gave Kansas City a 3-0 lead.
"That's what you want to do as a starter is keep your team in the game," said Sale, who suffered his seventh loss. "That pitch to Gordon, he crushed it the other way. I was one pitch away right there, and I just didn't bring it home. Tough loss."
Viciedo came close to making the catch at the wall, a play Ventura said probably should have been made.
"It was a hard-hit ball, and I was running fast toward it. I just lost it for a second," Viciedo said through a translator. "That's pretty much all I can say."
"That didn't cost us the game," Ventura said. "Us not scoring cost us the game. If you're getting up to double digits in leaving men on base, that's the issue, not defense."
Chen silenced the White Sox offense for 6 2/3 innings. Making his fifth start of season against Chicago, he improved his record against the South Siders to 3-1. He's 6-2 against them over the past two seasons.
Included among the White Sox 11 runners left on base was a scoring opportunity in the top of the fourth. Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko took back-to-back walks, each after long at-bats, to lead off the inning. Alex Rios followed with a single to load the bases with nobody out, but Viciedo popped out in foul territory on the second pitch of his at-bat, and Alexei Ramirez popped out to first on the first pitch. Tyler Flowers then struck out looking to end the frame.
"It just seemed like we were running a popup drill for them," Ventura said. "It just wasn't a good effort. And tip your hat to him because Bruce was getting out of any jam he had. You sometimes try too hard instead of just letting it happen, and it just didn't work.
"I think it's a combination of [trying to do too much] and the guy's a good pitcher. He's the one pulling strings and making you do that. I give him credit. We didn't have good swings with guys in scoring position. He's somebody that frustrates you that way because he doesn't throw 97, 98. He's letting you hit it but not letting you get a good swing at it."
The White Sox went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position. They also stranded runners at the corners with two outs in both the seventh and eighth innings, after Chen had left the game.
"Listen, Chen had a good night," Viciedo said. "We've hit against him well before. We've been in situations like this where we've had men in scoring position and we've scored. It just didn't happen tonight. It was his night."
Not hitting with men in scoring position has become an upsetting trend for the White Sox in recent games. They're hitting .097 in those situations in their last 12 games.
The loss sends the White Sox to 6-11 against the Royals this season. In six starts against the Royals this season, Sale is 3-3, and 47 of his 150 hits allowed this season have come against Kansas City. In nine career appearances (three starts) at Kauffman Stadium, Sale is 2-4 with a 3.77 ERA.
"Baseball's a crazy game, and things like that are going to happen. I just feel like every time I pitch against these guys, it's always one pitch away or this or that," Sale said. "On a night like this, you've just got to tip your hat to those guys. Chen came out and threw as well as he's ever thrown against us. I got beat tonight. There's no other way to say it. I got outpitched by Bruce, and they got hits when they needed them."
"We just did just enough to squeak out a win," Gordon said. "Our approach is not try to do too much against Sale with his kind of stuff and his kind of deceptive delivery. Just stay simple and try to make something happen, and we did just enough."
Now holding just a two-game edge on Detroit, the White Sox will go for a series win against the sub-.500 Royals on Thursday before heading out to play the Angels, who are pushing for their own spot in the playoffs.
Ventura said the White Sox can't worry about what Detroit is doing.
"We're going to have to win no matter what, and that's our business," he said. "We can't sit and hope that somebody else takes care of it for us. We have to win and be able to do that.
"It's more difficult when you play like this."