Chen improved his record to 3-1 this season against the White Sox.
"Bruce was right on top of his game," manager Ned Yost said. "I told him right after he was done, 'You did a great job of pitching yourself into trouble in the fourth inning and even a better job of pitching yourself out of it.'"
That was Chen turning a tarnished situation into a shining moment.
There were no outs when Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko walked and Alex Rios singled.
"I made real good pitches when I needed to and I think Salvador [Perez] did a real good job of calling the game. We didn't panic, we stuck to our game plan and we made pitches when we needed to," Chen said.
All three runners were stranded as Chen induced two infield popups and slipped strike three past Tyler Flowers. Not giving in was Chen's secret, in Yost's view.
"He really didn't give in to the first two hitters," Yost said. "You've got Dunn, who can hit the ball out of the ballpark, with a one-run lead; you've got Konerko, who can hit ball out, and he didn't give in. He ended up walking them both. Then Rios, who's as hot as anybody on their ballclub, gets a base hit. But he continued that mindset, he didn't give in and he got out of it."
The Royals had a bases-loaded chance of their own with one out in the third inning -- Jason Bourgeois and Alcides Escobar each singled and Alex Gordon walked -- but they got just one run out of it. Billy Butler lined out to left for a sacrifice fly before Sale fanned Perez.
By the fifth inning, Escobar had three singles off Sale, including one off the pitcher's right heel. His first hit was his 165th this season, the most in history by a Royals shortstop. The previous high was Angel Berroa's 164 in 2005. Escobar also swiped his 30th base, becoming just the third Royals shortstop with that many steals, joining Freddie Patek, who did it five times, and U.L. Washington, once.
All of that preceded Escobar's interesting part in the Royals' two-run seventh inning.
Eric Hosmer led off with a ground ball into center field, but he turned on his turbojets and hustled to a double.
"With a guy like Sale going, you want to be aggressive on the bases. If you get a chance, take the extra base," Hosmer said. "The situation was right, we were up a run. So I figured the leadoff guy on second would be a good situation for us with the top of the lineup coming up, so I just figured I'd take a shot."
Sale retired the next two batters and, with Escobar up and Hosmer having moved over to third, the White Sox decided to walk him intentionally to get to Gordon. That made sense, given Escobar's big night and the fact that he was hitting a mighty .476 (30-for-63) against Chicago this year. Also, it pitted the left-handed Sale against left-handed Gordon.
But the intentional walk was new for Escobar.
"Right here in the American League, that was the first time," Escobar said. "In the National League, a couple of times because when I played over there I batted eighth and the pitcher was right behind me."
There was a brief pause as White Sox manager Robin Ventura huddled with plate umpire Tim Timmons, informing him the dugout phone to the bullpen didn't work. Not that it really mattered because Ventura wasn't taking Sale out -- he'd pitch to Gordon.
The strategy didn't work out because Gordon hit a long drive that went just out of left fielder Dayan Viciedo's reach and to the wall. Hosmer trotted home and Escobar zoomed in behind him.
"It's a tough play," said Gordon, who patrols that area. "I thought I hit it pretty well. I was hoping to find a gap, but I hit it right at him. Luckily, I hit it good enough to get it over his head and Esky did a good job of scoring for me."
That made it 3-0. Chen had been pulled with two outs in the top half of the inning when the score was 1-0 and he walked Gordon Beckham. With his top relievers rested, Yost turned to Kelvin Herrera, who managed to work through a scoreless 1 1/3 innings despite giving up three hits. Then Greg Holland pitched past Alejandro De Aza's two-out double -- his fourth hit -- in the ninth to record his 14th save.
"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."
But the White Sox couldn't do anything against Chen, who, as Ventura duly noted, got them to float seven infield popups into the air.
"It just seemed like we were running a pop-up drill for them," Ventura said. "It just wasn't a good effort."