CHICAGO -- Chris Sale was a little off his top form, but it didn't matter Monday night against the struggling Kansas City Royals.
Sale added to the Royals' offensive frustration, leading the Chicago White Sox to a 3-1 win at U.S. Cellular Field and improving to 9-1 with a 2.03 ERA.
In his first start since throwing an inning in the All-Star Game, Sale lasted seven innings and escaped two threats with minimal damage. He allowed one run on seven hits, walked one and struck out eight.
"I had a lot of time off and I felt rested," Sale said. "I felt really good tonight. I got loose, and I tried to throw strikes and be effective."
His toughest innings were the fourth and sixth. The Royals (48-50) manufactured a run in the fourth, but Sale managed to strike out three in the sixth despite some command issues leading to two runners reaching base.
"I fell behind (in counts)," he said. "Anytime you fall behind, you've got to throw more strikes and catch more of the plate."
After Sale walked first baseman Billy Butler to put two aboard with one out, White Sox manager Robin Ventura made an unexpected trip to the mound.
"He was kind of moving around, stretching his back," Ventura said. "I went out there to make sure he had a breather in between a couple of tough hitters. He just looked like he exerted himself enough that you can go give him a little bit of a breather to recharge or whatever, just have everything going for the next guy. I talked to him, and he said everything felt fine."
Clinging to a 2-1 lead, Sale struck out the next two hitters he faced on full-count pitches. Third baseman Danny Valencia swung at a high fastball out of the strike zone, and shortstop Alcides Escobar watched a fastball zip right down the middle.
Sale cruised through the seventh and got the ball to his bullpen. Right-hander Ronald Belisario threw a perfect eighth inning, and Jake Petricka worked a scoreless ninth to earn his fourth save.
White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton went 2-for-3 and scored a run, and rookie first baseman Jose Abreu extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a double in four at-bats.
Chicago (48-52) improved to 3-1 since the All-Star break, while the Royals (48-50) dropped their fourth game in a row. Kansas City is 9-18 since its 10-game winning streak in June. The Royals lost for the seventh time in 10 games and the 10th time in 15.
"I thought today we battled very well against a very tough pitcher," said Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie (5-9). "I thought we put ourselves in some good positions to score some runs. I look at this game, and this was a much better effort, even we only scored one run and lost 3-1, than I think the past couple games."
Despite out-hitting Chicago 8-6, the Royals saw their batting woes continue -- although Sale's dominance had a lot to do with it. It was reminiscent of what happened Sunday against Boston Red Sox ace left-hander Jon Lester in Kansas City's 6-0 defeat.
The good news is that Guthrie prevented a full meltdown from occurring on the mound. In six innings, he allowed three runs on five hits and three walks. He struck out five and posted a quality start after back-to-back rough outings.
The White Sox loaded the bases with no outs in the first, taking a quick a 2-0 lead on a two-run single by designated hitter Adam Dunn, but that was their biggest inning.
"I thought Guthrie threw the ball all right," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "The first inning, they had some well-placed ground balls, and he was a little off command-wise in the first inning. He ended up hitting two guys by mistake, but still kind of limited the damage there."
NOTES: The Royals scratched 1B Eric Hosmer from the starting lineup because of a bruised right hand. Hosmer was hit in the hand by a pitch from Boston Red Sox LHP Jon Lester on Sunday. Billy Butler, who was supposed to be the designated hitter, played first, while C Salvador Perez filled the DH role and backup C Brett Hayes started behind the plate. ... Royals LHP Jason Vargas, on the 15-day disabled list following an emergency appendectomy July 9, responded well during a light 20-pitch side session prior to Monday's game. ... The White Sox were without pitching coach Don Cooper, who is dealing with vertigo. Cooper might miss a few more days. Bullpen coach Bobby Thigpen filled in for Cooper, while bullpen catch Mark Salas handled Thigpen's role.