CHICAGO | It doesn’t matter, ultimately, that the Royals did it the hard way Thursday or that Kyle Davies garnered little reward for seven shutout innings.
All that matters is Coco Crisp yanked a two-run homer in the ninth inning against All-Star closer Bobby Jenks that carried the Royals to a 2-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
And take a look at the standings.
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The Royals, at 2-1, occupy first place in the American League Central Division as they prepare for Friday's home opener at a renovated Kauffman Stadium.
Alberto Callaspo started the winning rally with a one-out double against Jenks into the right-center gap. Crisp followed by pulling a first-pitch fastball over the right-field wall.
That broke a scoreless tie and ended a frustrating afternoon of wasted opportunities. The Royals stranded 10 runners in the first eight innings.
Of course, the Royals still needed their All-Star closer, Joakim Soria, to put away the White Sox in the ninth. That looked shaky when Carlos Quentin led off with a double.
Two ground-outs produced a run before Soria put the tying run on base with a four-pitch walk to Paul Konerko. An error by third baseman Alex Gordon on Alexei Ramirez's grounder extended the inning and put runners at first and second.
Finally, though, Soria secured his second save by striking out pinch-hitter Wilson Betemit.
Davies worked seven dazzling innings and threw 103 pitches but settled for a no-decision. He permitted three singles while walking two and matching a career-high with eight strikeouts.
The White Sox never put more than one runner on base in any inning against Davies.
The Royals closed out the first series with their three starters -- Gil Meche, Zack Greinke and Davies -- permitting just one run and 13 hits in 20 innings. The three also combined for 21 strikeouts and five walks.
Reliever Ron Mahay, 1-0, got the victory. He began the eighth inning by striking out pinch-hitter Brian Anderson before walking Josh Fields on four pitches.
The Royals caught a break on Chris Getz's grounder to short when second-base umpire Gary Darling ruled Callaspo’s drop at second base came after recording the force.
Instead of first and second with one out, the White Sox had a runner on first with two outs. Mahay ended the inning when Crisp ran down A.J. Pierzynski's drive into the right-center gap.
Chicago lefty John Danks limited the Royals to three hits, all singles, in six shutout innings, but the Royals helped him out, too, by stranding seven runners.
Ex-Royals closer Mike MacDougal replaced Danks to start the seventh and, almost immediately, the Royals stirred.
Callaspo punched a one-out pinch single into center, and Crisp followed with a double to right-center just beyond the reach of right fielder Jermaine Dye. Callaspo had to wait to see the ball drop and stopped at third.
That finished MacDougal.
Matt Thornton entered to faced David DeJesus in a left-on-left matchup with the infield drawn in. The strategy worked when the runners had to hold on DeJesus’soft grounder to second.
Thornton stranded both runners when Mark Teahen struck out.
The Royals got a look at another of their ex-closers in the eighth inning when Octavio Dotel replaced Thornton. José Guillen led off with a single, but Dotel struck out the next three hitters.
The Royals didn’t have a hit until John Buck's squibber up the third-base line refused to go foul and resulted in a leadoff single in the third inning. A one-out walk to Crisp and a single by DeJesus loaded the bases.
The threat died when Teahen's liner to short turned into a double play. Crisp broke too hard and was an easy victim.
Fields opened the Chicago third with a soft single to right and went to second when first baseman Billy Butler mishandled Getz’s grounder and settled for an out at first.
Davies escaped by retiring Pierzynski on a grounder to first and striking out Carlos Quentin on a full count with a darting fastball.
The Royals had the better scoring chances even before MacDougal replaced Danks.
They squandered a two-on, one-out chance in the fifth inning when DeJesus grounded into a fielder's choice and Teahen grounded out. They then left another runner in scoring position in the sixth when Gordon and Mike Aviles flied out.