CHICAGO -- The Kansas City Royals are more than happy to engage in a battle of bullpens.
Whether they're protecting leads or trying to keep games close, Royals relievers have become a major asset this season. That was proved again Wednesday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field, where the Royals beat the Chicago White Sox 2-1 in a game that featured a strong outing from starter James Shields and another dominant showing by the bullpen.
"Any time we're in the late innings of a game and it's a close game, one run is usually good enough with our bullpen," said Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas, who scored the winning run in the top of the ninth inning by jarring the ball out of catcher Tyler Flowers' mitt. "These guys have been phenomenal for us all year. (Wade Davis) is lights out and then you get to (closer Greg Holland). It's a tough combo to get a run off, so if we get one run late in that game or any game, it's a good chance we're coming out with a 'W' that day."
That's exactly what happened in the series finale between the American League Central rivals.
Davis (6-2) got the win by keeping it 1-1 with a scoreless eighth and Holland preserved the one-run lead after Moustakas' slide for his 26th save.
"We all try to help each other in a positive way and we all want to get the job done," said Davis, who hasn't yielded an extra-base hit in 42 2/3 innings. "Nobody wants people to look at us and say it was our fault. We don't want that to happen and I don't think it will."
Right-hander Zach Putnam (3-2) gave up a run in the ninth and took the loss for Chicago (48-54), which is now 2-12 in its last 14 home games against the Royals.
A single to shallow center by right fielder Nori Aoki led to the play at the plate that scored Moustakas, who would have been out had Flowers held onto the throw by center fielder Adam Eaton. Moustakas' knee knocked the ball out, which gave Holland all the runs he needed.
"In all honesty, I thought I had it the whole time," Flowers said. "I wish I would have hung on to it, but there was nothing I could do different. I don't regret anything I did and I'm not going to do anything different next time."
Neither is Moustakas, who admitted the new rules about collisions at the plate led to him sliding rather than crashing into Flowers.
"The rules ... you kind of have to obey 'em," he said. "You don't really think about trying to truck anybody, and that's a big boy back there behind home plate, so it's probably not a good idea to go that route (against Flowers). I just tried to slide in hard and tried to jar the ball out."
Each side manufactured a run in the first inning and it stayed 1-1 for the remaining six innings the starting pitchers were in the game. Shields and White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana matched each other zero for zero on the scoreboard through the next six frames, which led to the bullpen battle.
Quintana and Shields took different routes to similar results.
Quintana allowed seven hits and two walks in his seven innings but got out of some sticky situations by forcing three double-play grounders -- including two by Royals designated hitter Danny Valencia.
"I feel today I threw more strikes," said Quintana, who was saddled with is 36th career no-decision. "I was ahead in the count and it's better for me because you stay longer in the game. Sometimes you have games with more strikeouts. Today I stayed (in) longer because I had contact early."
Shields escaped a bases-loaded scrape in the second inning by getting second baseman Gordon Beckham to ground out and then turned to the strikeout as his primary weapon. He fanned two each in the third, sixth and seventh and induced his own rally-killing double play ball in the fifth.
Once it got down to the relievers, the Royals had a distinct advantage.
"A lot of people look at the arms that are out there," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of Royals relievers. "They have a very nice bullpen. Our guys, they give up one run, it becomes tough."
NOTES: Royals 1B Eric Hosmer (right hand contusion) returned to the lineup Wednesday after missing two games, but left early. ... White Sox rookie 1B Jose Abreu was back in the starting lineup after getting an unscheduled day off Tuesday and extended his hitting streak to 13 games. ... Chicago scratched RF Dayan Viciedo from the starting lineup because of tightness in his left hamstring. ... LHP Carlos Rodon, whom the White Sox selected third overall in the June draft, allowed one run and two hits with one strikeout Tuesday in his professional debut in the advanced rookie Arizona League. ... Injured Royals LHP Jason Vargas (appendectomy) will throw another side session Thursday in Kansas City. ... Pitching coach Don Cooper missed his third straight game with complications from vertigo and did not fly with the White Sox to Minnesota. ... OF Avisail Garcia, recovering from shoulder surgery, will make the upcoming road trip with the White Sox to continue his rehab work. ... Wednesday was the five-year anniversary of former White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle's perfect game in Chicago against the Tampa Bay Rays.