With a winning home stand in the balance, the Royals leaned on their Sox stuffer, and Jeremy Guthrie delivered.
Guthrie limited the White Sox to one run over seven innings and the Royals came through with a pair of runs in the eighth to pull out a 3-1 victory on Wednesday.
The outcome prevented a White Sox sweep, and allowed the Royals to post a 5-4 mark on the home stand. They moved back to .500 on the season heading into an off day before opening a three-game series at the Angels on Friday.
In two-plus seasons with the Royals, Guthrie is 5-2 with a 2.49 ERA in 11 starts against the White Sox, and his mastery over the club was in dire need after the first two games of the series.
Guthrie talked about his fastball command, but his most memorable pitch was clocked at 60 mph when he struck out Adam Eaton to end the fifth.
“How fast was it?” Guthrie asked. “Last year I got a 59. Eaton’s been tough on us. He’s a guy you want to keep off the base.”
Guthrie also succeeded in keeping the ball in the park. In winning the first two games of the series by identical 7-6 scores, the White Sox bombed five home runs. Wednesday marked the first time in five games Guthrie didn’t yield a home run.
“I haven’t been so successful with that,” said Guthrie, who didn’t get a decision. “I try to win and I try to give up no home runs. You tell me how I’m doing. I have 12 homers (allowed) and two wins. I guess I’m not doing so hot.”
Royals manager Ned Yost had a different take.
“He was tremendous,” Yost said.
So was reliever Wade Davis, who sailed through the eighth with two strikeouts. He collected the victory, and Greg Holland coaxed a double-play grounder to end the game and picked up his 13th save.
The Royals broke a 1-1 tie in the eighth with a rally that started with a bit of daring. Nori Aoki had two strikes when he pushed a bunt so perfectly on the left side there was no throw.
Alcides Escobar followed with a hustle double to left, and Eric Hosmer was intentionally walked by starter Jose Quintana.
That was it for the lefty Quintana. Billy Butler faced righty reliever Jake Petricka and got down 1-2 in the count.
But Butler, the Royals’ hottest hitter, drove Petricka’s offering on the outside part of the plate to right, deep enough to score Aoki with the sacrifice fly.
“I got underneath it, hit a line drive and it got the job done,” Butler said.
Danny Valencia then showed great patience, coaxing a walk from Petricka on a 3-1 pitch, and Escobar trotted down the line with the insurance run.
The White Sox pushed across their first run in the second inning with the help of the Royals. Adam Dunn drew a leadoff walk and was erased when Guthrie fired to second on a comebacker, tailor-made for a double play.
But second baseman Pedro Ciriaco, filling in for injured Omar Infante, air mailed the back half of the play and Alexei Ramirez was on. He stole second and scored on Paul Konerko’s single.
The Royals answered in the third with a couple of soft-served singles.
Ciriaco redeemed himself by legging out a roller to shortstop. He took second on a fielder’s choice and came around when Aoki picked up his first RBI of the homestand, a seeing-eye single through the left side.
When asked about the RBI afterward, Aoki had to think for a moment. His mind was still on the bunt.
“That’s not really in my mind right now,” Aoki said. “The bunt is.”