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Kennedy outduels Sale as Royals keep pace

MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Mission accomplished.

The Royals needed a winning road trip to keep their postseason hopes alive and they got just that with a 2-0 win over the White Sox on Sunday behind a strong start from Ian Kennedy, and home runs from Kendrys Morales and Eric Hosmer.

Full Game Coverage

CHICAGO -- Mission accomplished.

The Royals needed a winning road trip to keep their postseason hopes alive and they got just that with a 2-0 win over the White Sox on Sunday behind a strong start from Ian Kennedy, and home runs from Kendrys Morales and Eric Hosmer.

Full Game Coverage

The Royals completed a 4-2 road trip, and stayed within four games of the Orioles for the American League's second Wild Card.

"We won two series on the road, which was big," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We got to win series from here on. Each win is crucial right now. It feels good when you match up against a guy like Chris Sale and get a win."

Kennedy improved to 11-9 with his 13th quality start. He gave up one hit, walked four and struck out six over six innings.

Video: KC@CWS: Kennedy tosses six scoreless innings

"Kennedy was really on top of his game," Yost said. "When he was missing, he was just missing. He really controlled his fastball well, his swing-and-miss fastball."

Video: KC@CWS: Hosmer homers to extend Royals' lead

Sale took the hard-luck loss, giving up two runs and eight hits over eight innings. Sale struck out 12, including striking out the side in the fifth to surpass 200 strikeouts. In doing so, he became the first pitcher in White Sox history to reach that milestone in four consecutive seasons.

Sale hasn't won in his past four starts and has just one win (Aug. 20 vs. Oakland) since becoming the first pitcher in the Major Leagues to reach 14 wins on July 2 against the Astros.

Ventura, Yost recall vivid 9/11 memories

Sale also eclipsed the 200 innings plateau for the third time and made his fifth straight start of at least eight innings, the first White Sox pitcher to do that since Alex Fernandez did it July 28 to Aug. 17, 1996.

Video: KC@CWS: Sale's 12 Ks in 12 seconds

"More than anything, it's the innings," Sale said. "I was told very early on, when I got here, 200 innings is the benchmark for a starting pitcher. It doesn't matter [about] anything else. If you go out there and fill up innings, all the other stuff is going to work out. Do I appreciate [the strikeout record]? Absolutely. I don't want to act like it's not cool or like I'm unappreciative of it, but there's not a single part of me that wouldn't give all that to be in the playoffs four years in a row."

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MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Long ball: The Royals' only success against Sale came with the home run. Morales blasted his 27th homer in the second inning, his fifth home run on this road trip and his 13th RBI. Hosmer went deep in the sixth, his 23rd. Hosmer also became the only left-handed hitter to hit more than two homers off Sale -- Hosmer now has three.

"It's hard to bunch offense against Chris Sale," Yost said. "You got to hope you get a pitch and not miss it. That's what Mo did and what Hoz did. You just hope then your pitching matches him. It's a credit to our pitching staff that we gave them two runs and they made it hold up."

What is the secret to Hosmer's success?

"Honestly, I try to get out of that box as quick as I can without getting embarrassed off a guy like him," Hosmer said, smiling. "I don't know, man. I'm trying not to do too much. I guess he's going to be around the plate. You know he's going to throw strikes. But there's no trick.

"If you ask me my opinion, who the nastiest pitcher in the game is, I'm gonna say Sale all day."

Video: KC@CWS: Hosmer discusses Royals' win, facing Sale

K-Zone: Sale has made it a point to go deeper into starts by trying to set up strikeouts less and induce contact more. That doesn't mean he can't ring up his share of strikeouts anymore. After notching five strikeouts through the first four innings, Sale rattled off three more in the fifth to become the first pitcher in franchise history with four straight 200-strikeout seasons. Sale retired Christian Colon, Whit Merrifield and Paulo Orlando in order after he allowed a leadoff single to Cheslor Cuthbert and plunked Alcides Escobar. It was the third double-digit strikeout performance of the season for Sale, who has 34 in 144 career starts.

"He gets in a jam, he can strike people out," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "I think that's where he reaches for a little bit more and goes after [strikeouts]. I think his slider is sharper at that point. He's learned to kind of pace himself and go along, but he always has the ability to strike people out. That's what makes him dangerous. That's what makes him good." More >

Video: KC@CWS: Sale gets 200th K in fourth straight season

Missed chance: The Royals had first and third and none out off Sale in the seventh, with a chance to get some real separation. But Sale struck out Merrifield and then got Orlando to roll into a 5-4-3 double play, keeping the lead at 2-0.

Video: KC@CWS: Frazier starts a 5-4-3 double play

Picked apart: Kennedy didn't just confound the White Sox with the pitches he threw. He also got key outs to end the first and fifth innings. He picked off Adam Eaton from first base to end the first and then doubled off Alex Avila after snaring a line drive in the fifth. The White Sox were also thwarted by the Royals' starter in the third, when Kennedy got Melky Cabrera to fly out to end the inning, after he walked the bases loaded. More >

Video: KC@CWS: Kennedy escapes bases loaded jam in the 3rd

QUOTABLE
"We need to muster more than two hits if we're going to win. They're leading the division. We have our hands full." -- Ventura, on facing the Indians next

Video: KC@CWS: Ventura on a tough loss for Sale

WHAT'S NEXT
Royals: Right-hander Dillon Gee (6-7, 4.34 ERA) takes the mound for the Royals as they open a four-game set at Kauffman Stadium on Monday against the A's at 6:15 p.m. CT. Gee gave up three runs -- all solo home runs -- in his last start over six innings against the Twins on Tuesday.

White Sox: Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez will look to build on his last start when he faces the Indians to begin a four-game series at U.S. Cellular Field. Gonzalez came off the 15-day disabled list to throw six scoreless innings and earn a win against the Tigers on Tuesday. First pitch is 7:10 p.m. CT

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Brian Hedger is a contributor to MLB.com based in Chicago and covered the White Sox on Sunday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Eric Hosmer, Ian Kennedy, Kendrys Morales, Chris Sale