KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Chris Sale couldn't care less about the Royals being in a pennant race.
All he cared about Wednesday night was that Kansas City knocked him around while gaining ground on Detroit in the AL Central.
Lorenzo Cain hit a three-run homer, Nori Aoki kept up his tear at the plate and the Royals roughed up Sale in a 6-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox. Kansas City moved within a half-game of the Tigers, with the two opening a three-game set at Kauffman Stadium on Friday night.
"The only pennant race I would look forward to is the one we would be in," said Sale, who gave up a season-high five earned runs in five innings. "I'm not here to spoil anyone's party. Obviously, you want to win every time out, but by means do you go into a start saying, 'I want to ruin this team's day.' I want to win this game for my team. That's first and foremost."
Alcides Escobar also homered for a Royals offense that had been scuffling for weeks, and Aoki went 3 for 4 to finish with 11 hits in the series. Yordano Ventura (13-10) allowed three hits and two walks over seven innings, the lone run off him coming on a sacrifice fly.
Meanwhile, Sale (12-4) had arguably his worst start since Aug. 23, 2013, when the three-time All-Star gave up eight runs over seven innings in a loss to the Rangers.
"You know what you're going to get with this team every time," Sale said. "And they're fighting, especially in the position they are in now. Every pitch is big."
The White Sox loaded the bases with nobody out in the third inning, and Adam Eaton staked them to a lead with his sacrifice fly. But Ventura calmly struck out the next two batters to get out of trouble, and then kept Chicago guessing with a blazing fastball all night.
"Their guy was real good," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "You see him hitting 100 (mph) on a lot of pitches, and upper 90s with a big hook. He's tough to zero in on."
It didn't take Kansas City long to take the lead for good.
In the bottom of the third, Escobar and Aoki hit back-to-back singles before Cain sent a pitch over the left-field wall. The three-run homer was the first allowed by Sale on an 0-2 count in his career — 164 appearances and nearly 670 batters over parts of five seasons.
"Fighting Chris Sale is always tough," Cain said. "He's one of the best in the game."
Escobar added his solo shot with two outs in the fourth. His third homer of the season and first since May 11 landed in almost the exact same spot as Cain's home run.
Aoki doubled in the first inning, singled in the third and fourth and walked in the sixth, earning a standing ovation. His 11 hits against the White Sox broke the Royals record for a three-game series that had been shared by George Brett (1982) and Willie Wilson (1980).
It was also the first time a Kansas City player had three hits in three straight games since Mike Sweeney accomplished the feat from July 8-10, 2005, according to STATS.
"He's hotter than a firecracker," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "You can't explain it."
White Sox DH-1B Paul Konerko, who is retiring after the season, was honored by the Royals before the game with a number of mementos, including a chair from the 2012 All-Star game played at Kauffman Stadium. Konerko was a member of the AL team that lost 8-0.
The Royals improved to 10-5 against the White Sox, clinching the season series for the fourth consecutive year. The teams meet four times in Chicago next week to finish the regular season.
White Sox: Konerko, out since breaking his left hand on Sept. 2, will likely return this weekend in Tampa Bay. "Give him a couple of at-bats and if he's up for it he can probably DH one of those games and see how it feels," Ventura said.
Royals: INF Christian Colon (broken middle finger) was placed on the 15-day disabled list.
White Sox: LHP Jose Quintana (8-10, 3.30 ERA) starts Friday night's opener in Tampa Bay.
Royals: LHP Jason Vargas (11-9, 3.41) is on the mound Friday night against Detroit.