White Sox-Royals Preview
By MATT BECKER
(AP) -- All-Star Chris Sale is putting together a Cy Young-caliber season and has been instrumental to the Chicago White Sox's surprising position atop the AL Central. He has shut down nearly every team he has faced, yet struggled and lost in his lone appearance against the light-hitting Kansas City Royals two months ago.
Sale, who hasn't lost since, looks to exact some revenge when he takes the ball in Sunday's finale at Kauffman Stadium.
After outlasting Kansas City in a 14-inning marathon in Friday's opener, the White Sox (48-39) allowed the Royals to rally late in a 6-3 loss the next day.
Alcides Escobar hit a pair of homers, the second a go-ahead shot with two outs in the seventh inning, to help Kansas City (38-48) snap a four-game losing streak. Escobar, who came in with two homers on the season, is batting .367 with seven RBIs in his last seven games.
"He's making himself look like an All-Star-caliber-type player," Royals manager Ned Yost said of his shortstop.
He'll be facing an actual All-Star in Sale (10-2, 2.19 ERA), who is trying to help the White Sox win their first series in Kansas City since May 2009, but has already stumbled once against the Royals this year.
At home against Kansas City on May 12, Sale gave up three runs and a season-high tying seven hits in five innings of a 5-0 defeat. Royals All-Star Billy Butler was 2 for 3 off the left-hander, who matched his shortest start of the year.
Although Sale was a little shaky against a Kansas City team that is 12th in the AL in runs with 358, he is 7-0 with a major league-best 1.67 ERA since, yielding two runs or fewer in eight of his nine outings. That doesn't include his scoreless sixth inning of work in Tuesday's All-Star game at Kauffman.
His last start for the White Sox came against Texas on July 3, when he allowed a run and five hits in 7 1-3 innings of a 19-2 win.
All-Star Adam Dunn didn't play in the Midsummer Classic or partake in the Home Run Derby, but is still putting on quite a show in this series. He has homered in each of the first two games - his shot Saturday went an estimated 451 feet - to raise his season total to 27, tied for the most in baseball.
He'll look to add to this total against Luis Mendoza (3-5, 4.50), who has been off since allowing three runs and nine hits while striking out a career-high nine in six innings of a 4-1 loss to Toronto on July 4.
Since returning to the rotation, the right-hander is 1-2 with a 3.26 ERA in five starts. He likely could have a few more victories but has been backed by seven total runs of support. A lack of run support could certainly be the case again Sunday.
Mendoza was solid in his only appearance of the season against the White Sox on May 13, permitting a run and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings of relief to earn the win after starter Danny Duffy exited because of elbow tightness after just three batters.
Updated July 15, 2012