White Sox-Royals Preview

Chris Sale got some of the worst run support in baseball in 2013. Against the Kansas City Royals, it was far worse.

The Chicago White Sox will try to give their ace some offense to work with Sunday in Kansas City as they look to avoid a three-game sweep.

It’ll have to happen against No. 1 starter James Shields, who allowed just nine runs in six starts last season against Chicago.

Sale went 1-2 with a 1.84 ERA in four starts against the Royals a season ago as the White Sox scored one run for him in 29 1-3 innings.

Offense, however, hasn’t been the problem for Chicago (2-3) in the early going. The White Sox are batting .286 and scoring 5.80 runs per game, though they’ve dropped three straight after Saturday’s 4-3 loss to the Royals (2-2).

Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez broke a 3-all tie in the bottom of the eighth inning with an RBI double to score Alex Gordon. Perez is batting .538 and has a seven-game hitting streak dating to last season.

"He’s a clutch player," manager Ned Yost told the team’s official website. "The best definition of a clutch player is a guy that can rise to the occasion without raising his emotions. … He stays steady and makes things happen."

Perez has even walked three times already after drawing just 21 in 526 plate appearances last season, and free passes have been an issue for Chicago. The White Sox have issued 24 walks in the last four games.

"Listen, hits and walks make up runs," pitching coach Don Cooper told the team’s official website. "We’ve got to take care of the walk column for everybody. The other team has to hit us to beat us."

Sale didn’t have that problem in his opening day start, when he went 7 1-3 innings and allowed three runs on five hits with a walk and eight strikeouts in a 5-3 victory over Minnesota.

While Sale’s 3.19 run-support average for 2013 was third-worst among qualifying pitchers, the offense the Royals gave James Shields wasn’t much to brag about at 3.98. He went 2-1 with a 2.03 ERA in six starts against Chicago.

To begin 2014, Shields allowed three runs in 6 1-3 innings on Monday before Detroit walked off with a 4-3 win.

The Royals struggled offensively while losing their first two games but have woken up since with a .313 average in consecutive wins over the White Sox. Kansas City had three hits with runners in scoring position Saturday – the final one from Perez after the bullpen blew a two-run lead – and four Friday after going 1 for 16 in its opening series.

"It was a big one for our team," first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "There are not many games where our bullpen’s going to blow a lead like that, so for the offense to respond like that and all with two outs, that’s a huge win."

Royals designated hitter Billy Butler went 7 for 12 last season against Sale while White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez went 9 for 19 against Shields.

Ramirez is batting .444 with at least a hit in each of Chicago’s five games.