CHICAGO -- Consistency and execution.
That, Royals manager Ned Yost said on Friday, had been the difference between the good Luke Hochevar and the other Luke Hochevar.
Those two attributes weren't there for the Royals right-hander in his previous two starts against Detroit and New York.
On Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Field, however, Hochevar was at his best, holding the White Sox to three hits in seven scoreless innings in a 5-0 Kansas City win that put the Royals in position to earn their second straight series win in Sunday's finale.
"He was executing his pitches and he was aggressive with his fastball," Yost said. "That's what we expect out of Hoch, is nights like that."
Relievers Greg Holland and Aaron Crow pitched scoreless eighth and ninth innings, respectively, as the Royals posted their first nine-inning shutout of the season. They previously blanked the A's, 3-0, in eight innings of a rain-shortened game on April 10.
Hochevar (3-3) settled in quickly after a 56-minute rain delay, striking out five and walking zero, while allowing only two runners past first base.
It was a complete 180 from Hochevar's previous two starts. On May 1 against the Tigers, Hochevar gave up nine runs on 12 hits in four innings. His next time out, he lasted only 2 1/3 innings as the Yankees touched him up for seven runs.
Hochevar said those two starts were out of his mind on Saturday.
"Just try to stay within my approach and continuing to battle like crazy and make good pitches," Hochevar said of the difference. "Obviously, my last two weren't what I wanted by any means, but sometimes things get tough and you've just got to keep fighting like crazy."
With those struggles in the past, Hochevar was in complete control on Saturday.
In the second inning, with runners on first and second with one out, Hochevar induced an inning-ending, double-play grounder from White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez.
The next inning, Brett Morel singled with one out and stole second before Hochevar got two fly-outs to end the inning.
Hochevar allowed only one other hit -- a fourth-inning single -- and exited having retired 11 straight after seven innings.
"You know, kind of getting it over, getting ahead early. That was the big thing and then he had us chasing," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "He just kept us off-balance."
The win was Kansas City's second straight against a left-handed starter, as the Royals' offense -- which was shut out in the series opener -- benefited from White Sox left-hander Chris Sale's wildness in the opening inning. The Royals also defeated Boston's Jon Lester on Wednesday after losing their previous five games against left-handed starters.
Sale -- who in the past eight days had been moved from the rotation to the bullpen and back again -- threw nine of his first 10 pitches outside the strike zone as he walked Kansas City's first two hitters.
After left fielder Alex Gordon singled to load the bases, Billy Butler lined a shot into the right-field corner. Johnny Giavotella tagged up at second base, unsure if White Sox right fielder Alex Rios would catch the ball, as only Jarrod Dyson on third scored.
Jeff Francoeur followed with a grounder up the middle that was gloved by second baseman Gordon Beckham, who stepped on second for the force and then threw wildly to first, bringing home two runs. A bloop single by Eric Hosmer loaded the bases once again, but Alcides Escobar and Humberto Quintero flew out to end the inning -- after 42 pitches for Sale.
Sale (3-2) rebounded to throw four scoreless innings, but was out after five innings and 103 pitches.
"That's what they needed me for the first inning, too," Sale said. "Three out of the gate is hard for anybody. The way they were throwing the ball over, they just did a great job and I got outpitched."
The Royals added two more runs in the top of the eighth on RBI hits by Escobar and Quintero.
Holland, activated off the disabled list earlier in the day, struck out the side in the eighth in his return to the bullpen, which received a light workload thanks to Hochevar's outing. That ability to pitch deep in the game was what impressed Yost, who said the starting rotation needs to start producing similar outings more often.
"Our five starting pitchers are probably the five most important guys we've got because they set the tone, so we need to get that straightened out," Yost said. "Having Hoch setting the tone, having Bruce [Chen] setting the tone [Wednesday] like they've done their last two starts is big for us. We have to have it if we're going to be successful."