CHICAGO (AP) — About the only pitch that Chris Sale wouldn’t make Monday night was his case for the American League’s Cy Young Award.
Then again, if he keeps pitching like he has so far this season, he won’t have to say much.
Sale pitched seven effective innings in his first outing since the All-Star break and Adam Dunn had two RBIs and scored a run to lead the Chicago White Sox to a 3-1 victory over the slumping Kansas City Royals on Monday night.
Sale (9-1) wasn’t at his best, allowing seven hits and a walk in seven innings, but he worked out of jams in the fourth and sixth innings. He struck out eight and now has allowed three runs or less in 14 of his 15 starts this season.
Those certainly appear to be Cy Young-worthy numbers, right?
“Like I’ve always said, I don’t pay too much attention to that,” Sale said. “I have a job to do and I have to focus on doing that and playing games. We’re right in the hunt right now, so these are the dog days and you have to bear down now. Now’s not the time to be thinking about yourself or some trophy or whatever.”
Chicago manager Robin Ventura, though, didn’t hesitate to respond when asked if Sale was a legitimate candidate for the award despite missing a month earlier in the season.
“Oh, yeah, absolutely,” Ventura said. “There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be in the discussion. I don’t care if he missed a month or not. He’s good.”
Dunn went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks as the White Sox for the third time in four games since the break.
Danny Valencia went 1-for-2 with a RBI for Kansas City, which has dropped four straight and seven of eight. The Royals had a team meeting before the game, but couldn’t turn around their fortunes as they dropped two games below .500 (48-50).
Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie (5-9) gave up three runs on five hits in six innings to get the loss. He had been 4-0 against the White Sox with the Royals before Monday.
“I thought Guthrie threw the ball all right,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. “The first inning they had some well-placed groundballs. He was a little off command-wise in the first inning. Ended up hitting two guys by mistake but still kind of limited the damage there.”
The White Sox took a 2-0 lead in the first inning as the first four batters reached base and then Dunn singled up the middle against the shift — essentially hitting the ball to the normal shortstop position — to score both Adam Eaton and Alexei Ramirez.
The Royals trimmed the lead in half in the fourth. Alex Gordon singled with one out, stole second and then scored on a two-out single by Valencia. The next batter, Alcides Escobar, doubled down the left-field line, but Valencia was nailed at the plate as left-fielder Alejandro De Aza and Ramirez got the ball to catcher Tyler Flowers for the putout to end the inning.
“That’s huge,” Sale said of the play at the plate. “That’s a game-changer, a game saver, just gives us momentum. It was awesome.”
The White Sox regained the two-run edge in the sixth as Dunn scored on a sacrifice fly by Gordon Beckham to make it 3-1.
That was plenty of a cushion for Sale, who has allowed a total of three runs in 23 ? innings in his last three starts.
Ronald Belisario pitched and eighth and Jake Petricka worked the ninth for his fourth save.
“I think I’m just trying to get better day in and day out,” Sale said.