CHICAGO – Chris Sale has been so good that manager Robin Ventura is running out of things to say to the All-Star pitcher.
Sale struck out seven in his third complete game of the season, but the White Sox managed just five hits in a 1-0 loss to Wade Davis and the Kansas City Royals on Saturday night.
Sale allowed seven hits, walked one and retired his last nine batters. But the left-hander dropped to 1-8 with a 2.84 ERA in his last 10 starts.
"It's not easy to try and explain it to him," Ventura said when asked what he can say to Sale after these tough-luck losses. "But he's learned a tough lesson and part of baseball. He pitched great tonight, there's no question about it. You can't be perfect but he's pretty dang close."
Davis (5-9) allowed four hits — all singles — and walked three in a season-high 7 1-3 innings. The right-hander, who came over with James Shields in Kansas City's big offseason trade with Tampa Bay, was 0-4 with a 10.91 ERA in his previous four starts.
"I got ahead of a lot more guys tonight," Davis said. "I got some early swings to help me get deeper in the ballgame, too, and defense was pretty good today."
Louis Coleman came in after Alejandro De Aza's single in the eighth and got Alexei Ramirez to ground into a double play. Greg Holland then worked a shaky ninth for his 26th save in 28 chances.
The White Sox had runners on the corners with one out when right fielder David Lough made a terrific diving catch to rob Jeff Keppinger of a hit — part of an outstanding display of outfield defense for the Royals. Alex Rios did not tag up on the play, and pinch hitter Conor Gillaspie struck out to end the game.
"Even if I tagged up, I don't think I would have had a chance at home," Rios said. "It was just a tough play for us."
The Sox were shut out for the 10th time this season. The last-place White Sox (40-61) have lost eight of 11 to fall 21 games under .500 for the first time since they were 68-89 on Sept. 25, 2007.
"If you start getting down on yourself and getting down on all the people around you, it gets a lot tougher from here on out," Sale said. "Just keep supporting each other."
Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer had two hits apiece for the Royals, who have won five straight and seven of nine. Butler went 2 for 3 with a walk and is batting .450 (18 for 40) in his last 11 games.
Hosmer and Butler started the sixth with consecutive singles. Hosmer advanced to third on Salvador Perez's fly ball to deep center and came home when Lorenzo Cain doubled down the third-base line.
Cain's hit put runners on second and third with one out, but Sale retired Lough on a harmless comebacker and struck out Miguel Tejada to end the inning.
The White Sox threatened in the bottom half, putting runners on the corners with two out. Paul Konerko then hit a drive to center, forcing Cain to make a nice running catch.
Davis waited on the dirt outside of the dugout to congratulate Cain as he hustled in from the outfield, but he was only getting started. Cain made an even better catch for the first out of the seventh, crashing into the wall while taking a hit away from Keppinger.
The second play prompted a few of the Royals to wave their hats toward center while Cain got himself together for the next pitch. He came out in the eighth due to tightness in his left groin, but the Royals said it was precautionary.
"He's got a little bit of a groin strain, why we took him out," manager Ned Yost said. "He's day to day. Probably rest him tomorrow because we've got an off day on Monday, grab him two days right there."
It was more than just Cain on a nice defensive night for both teams.
Shortstop Alcides Escobar ranged up the middle and made a spinning throw to retire Keppinger in the second. Then he got Josh Phegley with another strong throw in the fifth after his grounder deflected off the glove of third baseman Tejada.
"Hats off to their defense," Keppinger said. "They made great plays."
Second baseman Gordon Beckham and shortstop Ramirez each had a defensive gem for the White Sox. Beckham nearly misplayed Tejada's second-inning popup, but recovered in time to make a tumbling grab in short center field. Ramirez made a diving stop on Perez's grounder up the middle in the fourth, and then managed to shovel the ball to Beckham at second for the forceout.
NOTES: Beckham went 0 for 3 and is 1 for 21 in his last five games. ... The Royals improved to 23-27 on the road and 23-19 against the AL Central. ... The finale of the weekend series features a pair of left-handers. Bruce Chen (4-0, 1.97 ERA) gets the ball for the Royals while Hector Santiago (3-6, 3.38) is slated to start for the White Sox.