CHICAGO -- After an impressive debut as the Chicago White Sox's ace last year, Chris Sale picked right up where he left off in his first career Opening Day start on Monday afternoon.
Sale threw 7 2/3 scoreless innings and made a home run by catcher Tyler Flowers stand up as the winning margin in a 1-0 victory on a frigid afternoon at sold-out U.S. Cellular Field.
Sale threw 104 pitches (72 strikes) and struck out seven. He walked just one and got out of some sticky situations by inducing big double plays in the fifth and seventh innings and wiggling out of a bases-loaded situation in the third.
The Sox bullpen slipped out of a tight spot in the eighth thanks to Matt Thornton striking out Mike Moustakas to strand runners at first and third before closer Addison Reed pitched a scoreless ninth for the save.
The loss continued a losing trend on Opening Day for the Royals, who breezed through spring training. They're now just 15-30 in openers and dropped to 5-17 starting the season on the road. The good news for Kansas City is that Shields, whom they acquired in December in a blockbuster deal with Tampa Bay, had a strong outing.
Shields went six innings, struck out six, scattered eight hits and didn't walk anyone while looking like a solid No. 1 starter. His lone mistake was throwing a second change-up in a row to Tyler Flowers leading off the fifth. Flowers swatted it 389 feet through the frigid
air to give Chicago a 1-0 lead.
Both starters struck out five through the first four innings and a few came in big situations to keep it scoreless.
The Sox were the first to threaten after back-to-back singles with one out in the second by Dayan Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez. Shields, however, got Flowers looking and Gordon Beckham swinging to strike out the side and close the frame.
Sale returned the favor in the top of the third by getting out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam by striking out Billy Butler and getting Mike Moustakas to pop out. The Sox lefty ace also got out of the fifth after allowing a leadoff single when Chris Getz grounded into a double play and Alex Gordon grounded out.
Flowers then smacked the fifth pitch he saw into the first few rows of seats in left-center field for a 1-0 lead to lead off the bottom of the fifth.
NOTES: After going 54-37 against Kansas City from 2006 to 2010, the White Sox were just 13-23 combined against the Royals in 2011 and 2012. ... Former White Sox star Bo Jackson threw out the ceremonial first pitch to former teammate and current Chicago manager Robin Ventura. ... Paul Konerko made his 13th straight opening day start for the Sox, extending his franchise record. Colorado's Todd Helton is the only other active player with more consecutive opening day starts with the same franchise with 16. ... Shields went 4-0 in five April starts a year ago and brought a 15-4 mark in 31 career starts during the season's first month. ... On the Royals' 25-man roster to start the season, 20 are younger than 30.