CHICAGO — It's safe to say that no pitcher really wants to face Royals designated hitter Billy Butler these days.
By PETE GRATHOFF
The Kansas City Star
But White Sox starter Chris Sale found himself in a tight spot early in Chicago's 1-0 season-opening victory Monday against the Royals at U.S. Cellular Field.
It was scoreless in the third inning when the Royals loaded the bases against Sale with one out on singles by Jeff Francoeur and Alex Escobar and a walk to Alex Gordon.
Butler stepped to the dish having enjoyed a bit of success against the southpaw Sale. In 25 plate appearances before Monday, Butler hit .318 with three homers and seven RBIs against Sale.
But Sale struck out Butler, then enticed Mike Moustakas to pop out to second to end the threat.
In those kinds of situations you want to face those guys maybe not, Sale said with a smile. On the flip side, if I want to get a big out, I want it to be one of their better guys, and it just went my way this time.
Billy's a good hitter. An All-Star last year and probably deserved some a few years before that. Anytime you can not give up any runs or keep them right where they're at, that's what you strive for. That's probably the most locked-in I was all day.
Sale, who had a breakout season a year ago, allowed seven hits with one walk and seven strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings.
You do a 3 o'clock game for opening day, and the shadows were tough, Butler said. It was really throwing the depth perception off on that slider. And he has a good slider.
The pitches were in the zone and, when they got there, they had some late break on them and then they weren't in the zone. We really only had that one opportunity.
The Royals did threaten in the seventh inning when Eric Hosmer singled and Lorenzo Cain followed with a line shot that second baseman Gordon Beckham snared.
It definitely saved the game right there, Sale said. You're looking at guys on first and second with no outs instead of a guy on first and we ended up getting a double play out of that.
Sale, 24, is coming off a breakout 2012 season in which he moved to the White Sox rotation and went 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA. He finished sixth in Cy Young voting and got a five-year, $32.5 million contract extension.
On Monday, Sale threw 104 pitches, including 72 for strikes.
It was three strikes in particular that proved costly to the Royals.
We had the one chance with Billy, and that's the situation you want you want Billy up, manager Ned Yost said. And Sale painted him three sliders and changeups on the black, down and away. That was impressive to me in that situation; he made the pitches that he needed to make to get one of the best hitters in the American League out.