CHICAGO — Chris Sale’s masterful performance was paired with a loss, again, a recurring conundrum that could prompt the struggling White Sox to trade the ace left-hander.

Sale struck out 12 over eight innings, but it wasn’t enough for Chicago’s anemic offense in a 2-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Sunday that inched the White Sox closer to their fourth straight losing season.

General manager Rick Hahn has said the club is “mired in mediocrity” and considering wholesale changes. A dominant 27-year-old pitcher with a team-friendly contract could produce a large haul of needed prospects.

“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.”

Sale made two mistakes. 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.

Sale (15-8) allowed eight hits 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. When you go out there and fill up innings, all the other stuff is going to work out.”

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.

“If you only have two hits, your guy doesn’t have a┬ávery good chance to win the game,” manager Robin Ventura said.

Ian Kennedy and three relievers combined on a two-hitter, and the Royals remained four games back of Baltimore for the second AL wild card.

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.

Kennedy 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.

Peter Moylan and Kelvin Herrera each threw a perfect inning before Wade Davis made it interesting for a second straight day in the ninth.

Davis allowed Eaton’s single and a walk. But he got Jose Abreu to line to right and struck out Justin Morneau with two on to earn his 24th save in 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.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

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.

MEMORIES

The 15-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks hit home for both managers. 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.

UP NEXT

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).