CHICAGO — Ian Kennedy wanted to talk about Chris Sale’s outing more than his own performance.
“What did he go, eight innings, 12 punchouts?” Kennedy said. “You know you’re going up against one of the best pitchers in the American League. I just wanted to go out there and try to give our team a chance.”
Kennedy did a lot better than that, combining with three relievers on a two-hitter and helping the Kansas City Royals edge Sale and the Chicago White Sox 2-0 on Sunday.
The key for Kansas City was swinging early. Kendrys Morales homered on Sale’s first pitch of the second and Eric Hosmer did the same in the fourth.
“Honestly, I just try to get out of that box as quick as I can without getting embarrassed,” Hosmer said.
The Royals won their second straight to stay four games behind Baltimore for the final AL wild-card spot. They have to jump five teams over the final 20 games to reach the playoffs for the third straight year.
“We needed this,” Hosmer said.
Kennedy (11-9) walked four, but Adam Eaton’s leadoff single was the only hit off the right-hander in six innings. He improved to 5-0 in his last six starts.
Peter Moylan and Kelvin Herrera each threw a perfect inning before Wade Davis worked around Eaton’s single and a walk in the ninth for his 24th save.
Sale (15-8) struck out 12 in eight innings while becoming the first White Sox pitcher with four consecutive 200-strikeout seasons. It was his third game of 10 or more strikeouts this season and No. 34 for his career.
Sale also went over 200 innings for the second straight season.
“I think more than anything, it’s the innings,” Sale said. “I was told very early on when I got here 200 innings was the benchmark for a starting pitcher.”
But Sale, who has gone at least eight innings in five straight starts, has just one win since starting for the AL in the All-Star Game. It has fueled speculation Sale could be traded in the offseason to help a rare rebuilding project for the struggling franchise.
“I don’t worry about that stuff. It’ll shake out on its own,” Sale said. “I wear this uniform with a lot of pride and I hope I can continue to do that.”
Kennedy, who struck out six, stymied Chicago despite occasional control issues amid his late-season turnaround.
He walked the bases loaded in the third with two out before Melky Cabrera flied to right. Kennedy worked around another walk in the fifth when Tyler Saladino lined to the mound to start a double play.
Davis got Jose Abreu to line to right and struck out Justin Morneau with two on to close the Royals’ fourth win in six games.
“It’s hard to bunch offense against Chris Sale,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “You have to hope you can get a pitch and not miss it. That’s what Mo did. That’s what Hos did and you just hope that your pitching matches.”
Royals: Yost said OF Lorenzo Cain (sprained left wrist) will see a specialist and they’ll decide in a week if he’ll be shut down for the season. “We’re just doing everything we can right now,” Cain said. “Hopefully, I can get back on the field.” … C Salvador Perez started a second straight game in his return from a wrist injury. “Salvy is a different scenario, it’s just a bone contusion,” Yost said.
White Sox: Sale stayed in after taking a liner off his knee in the third. He recovered to throw out Paulo Orlando at first.
The 15-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks hit home for both managers. Chicago’s Robin Ventura was playing for the Mets and Yost was with the Braves then. The teams faced off in the first game in New York after the attack.
Both men brought up the significance of Mike Piazza’s game-winning home run.
“People could cheer, people could hug each other and laugh and root for their team again,” Ventura said.
Royals: Oakland comes to Kansas City for four games, with Royals RHP Dillon Gee (6-7, 4.34 ERA) facing LHP Ross Detwiler (1-3, 5.15 ERA) on Monday.
White Sox: AL Central-leading Cleveland visits for four games starting Monday, with RHP Miguel Gonzalez (3-6, 3.81 ERA) facing RHP Carlos Carrasco (11-7, 3.15 ERA).