White Sox 5, Royals 4

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CHICAGO (AP)—This is uncharted territory for Esteban Loaiza.

Loaiza picked up his third straight win in a 5-4 victory over Kansas City on Tuesday night, giving up two runs in six innings—and actually raising his AL-leading ERA a fraction to 2.30.

The Chicago White Sox right-hander has never pitched this well this late into a season. His previous career high in wins was 11, and he knows there are some who expect him to fall apart sooner or later.

Loaiza (14-5) hopes to keep them quite another month or two.

“I think there are a lot of doubters out there right now that are biting their tongues because of the way I’ve been throwing,” Loaiza said. “The season is not over yet and I just want to finish the season strong and try and get every win.”

Loaiza, who wasn’t at his sharpest against Kansas City, struck out seven and helped the White Sox end a three-game losing skid and climb within two games of the AL Central-leading Royals.

“He didn’t really have his best stuff tonight,” White Sox manager Jerry Manuel said. “He battled through and gave us six innings. It was a gutsy performance.”

Loaiza made the team as a non-roster invitee in spring training with hopes of just making the team as a No. 5 starter.

Instead, he’s been Chicago’s most consistent pitcher, allowing two runs or less in 17 of his 23 starts this season.

He was in command after giving up runs in the first and third innings. Loaiza struck out Brent Mayne and Aaron Guiel swinging and got Dee Brown on a flyball after the Royals had their leadoff man on second with no outs in the fourth.

“We faced one of the best pitchers this year in Loaiza,” Royals manager Tony Pena said. “No question he pitched well, but I’m very happy with how our ballclub played.”

Kansas City scored two in the ninth off of Damaso Marte, who got one out in the eighth and finally closed out the Royals for his eighth save in 15 chances.

White Sox closer Tom Gordon wasn’t available after going two innings in Monday’s 13-9 loss.

Kyle Snyder (1-6) lasted just two innings before leaving the game because of shoulder tightness. He gave up five runs on five hits with two walks and a hit batter.

“I struggled from the start. It’s pretty clear that I have been battling some stuff the last eight weeks,” Snyder said. “It’s tough to deal with.”

The White Sox took a 5-1 lead in the second inning on Frank Thomas’ two-run homer and RBI singles from Miguel Olivo, Roberto Alomar and Carlos Lee.

Thomas drove a 3-2 pitch to straightaway center for his 27th home run—the second night in a row he has homered. Thomas hit a solo homer on Monday night for his 2,000th career hit.

The White Sox nearly added another run in the second, but Jose Valentin was thrown out trying to score from second on a perfect throw to home from Carlos Beltran in center field.

Beltran made another outstanding play in the third, reaching over the wall to rob Paul Konerko of a home run.

Olivo left the game with a sore right shoulder after scoring in the second. He tripped over the leg of Kansas City catcher Mayne running home and landed hard on his throwing shoulder.

Olivo said he would be available to play on Wednesday. He also questioned whether Mayne should have been in the baseline.

“I don’t know if he did it on purpose or not, but I almost broke my arm,” he said. “I’m fine. I’ll be ready to go (Wednesday).”

Guiel hustled for a double to lead off the game and scored on Raul Ibanez’s single to give the Royals a 1-0 lead. Guiel scored again in the second on Ken Harvey’s single.

The White Sox and Royals wrap up the series on Wednesday and don’t see each again until late September, when they play seven of their final 10 games against each other.

The surging White Sox are 14-5 since the All-Star break and have shaved five games off Kansas City’s division lead. Chicago has homered at home in 17 straight games, a franchise record.

“It’s huge. We’ve got Bartolo (Colon) going and hopefully he can pitch and perform like he has the last couple outings,” Manuel said. “They’ve played us tough. They’re a scrappy team.”

Notes

The game was a sellout, the second straight for the White Sox. … Alomar has reached base safely in 17 straight games. … The Royals called up OF Julius Matos and optioned reliever Nate Field to Triple-A Omaha. Matos hit .300 with four RBIs in seven games for Kansas City earlier this season. … Royals OF Michael Tucker was on crutches a day after fouling a ball off hisright left. He’s listed as day-to-day with a bone bruise.

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