KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Just when the Royals’ season again seemed to be teetering after losing six of eight games and having to face White Sox left-hander Chris Sale, the Royals again showed their resiliency.
The Royals beat up Sale for five runs, including two homers, and walked away with a huge 6-2 victory in front of 26,425 fans Wednesday night at The K.
The Royals thus took two of three from the White Sox and pulled within a half-game of AL Central-leading Detroit, which lost to Minnesota.
Now the Royals are set up for the three-game showdown at The K this weekend against Detroit with the division on the line.
"This was huge," Lorenzo Cain said. "If you could have been in here (15 minutes) ago, you’d know how big it was."
Yordano Ventura gave the Royals just what they needed — an outstanding seven-inning start. He allowed just three hits and one run, and struck out seven.
"He was phenomenal," manager Ned Yost said. "He got out of that big jam in the third — bases loaded and no outs — with just one run, which was huge.
"You know, he’s a kid who really likes these kind of games. He wants them."
Ventura gave everyone a slight scare when he called out the trainers in the sixth inning when he experienced some numbness in his right thumb. He stayed in the game and then pitched the seventh.
"It was just a little loss of feeling there and then he said he felt fine," Yost said. "Believe me, I had an eagle eye on him (in the seventh inning)."
— Aoki-dokie! Holy cow. Nori Aoki continued his assault on the White Sox pitching staff, getting three more hits plus a walk. In the three-game series, Aoki had 11 hits and reached base 13 times. If that wasn’t enough, Aoki also made three exceptional defensive plays, the biggest a spinning, leaping grab of a shot by Avisail Garcia at the wall in the second inning. Wow. Aoki became the first left-handed hitter ever to get three hits off Sale in one game. Double wow. "You can’t explain it," Yost said. "He’s just hotter than a firecracker. It’s like when guys get really cold — you can’t explain it."
— LoCain’s blast. The key blast in the game was Cain’s three-run shot off Sale in the third inning. Cain ripped an 0-2 slider over the left-field wall to give the Royals a 3-0 lead. It gave the Royals’ struggling offense a ton of offense as they eventually chased Sale after five innings with a 5-1 lead. Cain’s homer was the first ever allowed by Sale on a 0-2 pitch. "He’s a great pitcher," Cain said. "I knew I barreled it. It felt good."
— Esky the new leadoff man. Alcides Escobar was 5 for 12 since becoming Yost’s new leadoff man Saturday. He’s likely to keep that job for a while. Esky delivered a single to start the big four-run third. Then he whacked a home run — yes, a home run — off Sale in the fourth. That was Esky’s first homer since May 11. Esky now has 18 career hits off Sale, the most of any MLB hitter. "Every hitter has one pitcher he really sees well," Esky said. "I feel real comfortable against him."
— No hot-dogging it. OK, this is a mighty, mighty stretch, but Esky probably tried to get too cute in the third inning. After Jordan Danks singled with none out, Tyler Flowers hit a grounder up the middle that Esky dived for and speared. But Esky tried to flip the ball to Omar Infante with his glove only, and the flip got away from Infante, making both runners safe. Esky had time to pull the ball out of his glove with his hand and make an accurate toss. The White Sox wound up loading the bases with none out and got a run, but it could have been worse.
— Challenge! Esky reached base in the sixth and promptly took off on a steal attempt. The throw was close and Esky was called out, but the replay seemed to show Esky beat the tag — certainly close enough to challenge. But, for some odd reason, the Royals’ video team did not instruct Yost to challenge.
— Got nothing else. Anytime the Royals can beat Sale, and do so convincingly, there aren’t many complaints.