KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chris Sale knew he had to pitch his best Sunday with James Shields starting for the Kansas City Royals.
“Indubitably, yes,” Sale said. “You know what you’re getting with a starter like James. You have to bear down and do it.”
Sale gave up four singles in eight scoreless innings as the Chicago White Sox defeated the Royals 5-1 in a pitching duel between top starters.
Alexei Ramirez and Tyler Flowers each drove in a pair of runs as the White Sox won the series finale after dropping the first two games.
Sale (2-0) struck out six and walked one. In his previous four starts against the Royals, the White Sox had backed him with one run, enough to beat Shields 1-0 in the 2012 opener.
“There was an energy to Chris coming off the mound,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Big pitchers do that when you face up against a guy like Shields. He knows we’ve lost three in a row and he’s going up against Shields and he wanted to go out and shut them down.”
Shields (0-1) took the loss in this one, too, giving up a run on five hits, striking out six, walking none and hitting two batters in seven innings.
“What we saw out there today was two No. 1 starters that were at the top of their game,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Both of them had their A-game on the mound.
That’s as good of stuff as I’ve seen James Shields have. He had everything working, his fastball at 94-95, a great cutter, a great change, a great curveball.
“Sale was right there with him. He has everything going. Both starters just pitched a great game, both of them.”
Ramirez drove in the game’s first run in the seventh when Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar knocked down his grounder but had no play for Conor Gillaspie at home.
Sale allowed a runner past second only in the third inning, when Lorenzo Cain and Omar Infante singled and Ramirez committed a throwing error. Sale wiggled out of trouble by retiring Danny Valencia on a pop up. Cain had two of the hits off Sale.
The White Sox scored four runs in the ninth off Royals left-handed relievers Tim Collins and Francisley Bueno. The inning included a Flowers two-run single and an RBI double by Ramirez.
Alex Gordon singled home Eric Hosmer in the ninth off Matt Lindstrom for the only Kansas City run.
The Royals won their first replay challenge of the season when Marcus Semien was ruled safe at first, but it was overturned on a review that took 68 seconds. Ventura challenged that Hosmer was out at first to complete a double play in the sixth, but replays indicated he was safe.
Plate umpire Greg Gibson issued a warning to both benches in the sixth when Infante had to jump out of the way of Sale’s pitch way inside after Shields had hit two batters, including Jose Abreu in the top of the inning.
“I’m not trying to hit Abreu right there, there’s no doubt about it,” Shields said. “We’ve got a zero-zero ball game. I’m not trying to put a runner on base. There was definitely no intent. I understand they are trying to protect their players over there, but in that situation I’m not trying to hit him. I don’t think there’s any reason for any retaliation at all.”
White Sox 2B Gordon Beckham, who is on the disabled list with a left oblique strain, has been shut down after one game from a minor league rehab assignment with Double-A Birmingham, still feeling tenderness when he swings.
The White Sox starting lineup Saturday included four Cuban-born players: C Adrian Nieto, RF Dayan Viciedo, Ramirez and Abreu. The last team to start four Cubans were the Indians on April 8, 1969 — SS Zolio Versalles, RHP Luis Tiant, CF Jose Cardenal and C Joe Azcue.
The Royals will start LHP Jason Vargas against Tampa Bay on Monday, while the Rays’ probable is LHP Matt Moore.
The White Sox will start RHP Felipe Paulino for the series opener at Colorado. RHP Jordan Lyles will be the Rockies starter.