CHICAGO -- Adam Dunn isn't one to hype games unnecessarily, but the designated hitter acknowledged Monday that if the Chicago White Sox want to entertain the notion of making the playoffs much longer, the next four series against American League Central opponents are critical.
The White Sox jumped off to a good start Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field, topping the Kansas City Royals 3-1 in the first of 13 straight division games. The Sox entered Monday 51/2 games behind the Mariners for the second AL wild-card spot, and the Royals were one of several teams in between.
"There does come a point where it's kind of a make-or-break stretch," Dunn said. "The season's not getting any longer, and we're playing division games and for the most part playing teams ahead of us.
"If we can get on a good run here, it would be pretty big. ... We can make up a lot of ground or lose a lot. I would think it's pretty meaningful."
Left-hander Chris Sale (9-1) pitched seven innings, allowing one run on seven hits, walking one and striking out eight.
Sale hadn't pitched since his All-Star Game appearance Tuesday, a layoff to make sure he had ample rest.
"Everybody else got four days off," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "You still want him to have that complete four days to get back and feel strong and start up again."
Dunn gave the Sox an early lead with a two-run single in the first off right-hander Jeremy Guthrie. The Sox had loaded the bases when Adam Eaton singled, Alexei Ramirez was hit by a pitch and Jose Abreu reached on a fielding error.
The Royals cut the lead to 2-1 in the fourth when Alex Gordon singled off Sale, stole second and scored on Danny Valencia's single up the middle.
Valencia tried to score on Alcides Escobar's two-out double down the left-field line, but the Sox caught him at the plate on a relay from Alejandro De Aza to Ramirez to catcher Tyler Flowers.
The Royals threatened again in the sixth by putting two on with a single and a walk. But Sale struck out Valencia and Escobar to preserve the lead.
The Sox loaded the bases against Guthrie in the sixth when Dunn walked, Conor Gillaspie singled and De Aza walked. Gordon Beckham hit a sacrifice fly to score Dunn for a 3-1 lead.
Flowers nearly added to the lead with a towering shot above the left-field pole that prompted the crowd of 18,888 to roar. But the ball was ruled foul, and a review upheld the call. Flowers struck out to end the inning.
"They're a pretty solid club," Ventura said of the Royals before the game. "They limit a lot of your opportunities offensively because of the way they stretch the field defensively and the way they swing the bat.
"They could lose a few games, but they're still dangerous. ... You'd better be prepared to play clean to be able to beat them."
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