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CWS@KC: Guthrie strikes out five, solid over 7 2/3

KANSAS CITY -- Jeremy Guthrie made a serious run at a no-hitter on Sunday. But he couldn't even get a win.

The right-hander, acquired from the Rockies on July 20, had a rough first four months of the 2012 season, primarily with Colorado. But since the calendar changed to August, Guthrie has been at the center of a renaissance for the Royals' starting rotation.

Sunday marked the latest chapter in his late-summer resurgence, as his performance -- plus some clutch hitting from Salvador Perez -- keyed the Royals to a 5-2 win and a sweep of the White Sox at Kauffman Stadium.

After Perez had given Guthrie a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth with a two-run double, the righty quickly struck out the first two White Sox hitters to open the seventh. Paul Konerko then hit a ground ball deep into the hole at shortstop. Alcides Escobar fielded the ball, but his throw to first baseman Eric Hosmer came in on a hop. Hosmer attempted to make a play, but the ball bounced off his glove. Konerko was safe, and the play was deemed an infield single by the official scorer.

"It's a tough play," Guthrie said. "Him getting to it, he played himself into a chance to get an error or a hit. It went the way the scorer scored it. To me, I was going to go out and make pitches. If it was scored a hit, great. If it was scored an error, great. My goal was to finish out the game with zero runs."

Royals manager Ned Yost was a bit more pragmatic.

"I know this," Yost said, "if Hoz catches that ball, Konerko's out by 15 feet."

The Royals plan to appeal the scoring decision. But did the loss of the no-hitter -- and the controversial fashion in which it happened -- affect the pitcher?

"Not Jeremy. He's a pretty steady guy," Yost said. "He's a professional. He's a guy that's been a No. 1 starter for four straight years, and he's got those intangibles inside him where he really stays focused, pitch to pitch. He's got a plan on what he wants to accomplish when he gets out there, and he just focuses pitch to pitch on accomplishing it. Not much bothers him or rattles him."

"There was no change in anything I was going to do," Guthrie said. "I was going to go out there and throw first-pitch strikes and try to get ahead of them."

The much talked-about play was just the beginning of a furious late-inning finish. Guthrie went back out to the mound for the eighth, and again he retired the first two hitters. But, the controversial ruling was rendered less significant when Guthrie allowed back-to-back singles that ended his afternoon.

Reliever Tim Collins was summoned, and Dewayne Wise greeted him with a hard line drive that went right through Hosmer's legs at first base and into the right-field corner to score both baserunners and tie the game at 2.

But the Royals struck back almost immediately. Billy Butler walked to lead off the home half of the eighth and was replaced by pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson. Dyson stole second before Perez singled into right-center field to drive in the go-ahead run.

"In that situation, runner at second base, nobody on, I just tried to get him over to third, something away, to hit it to right field. And they gave me something away, up," Perez said.

"The thing that I really like about Sal in the five-hole right now is he provides great protection behind Billy [Butler]," Yost said. "A lot of teams aren't going to want to face Billy. Sal's a guy that doesn't strike out. He puts the ball in play. He's got a great idea when he gets to the plate, and he's a clutch hitter. Three RBIs for Sal today was big in those situations."

The Royals scored twice more in the inning to make it a three-run game.

"For us, that eighth inning, earlier in the year, would've been a little deflating, having a pitcher pitch as good as he did," Yost said. "That was a tough ball hit to Hoz. The ball stayed down, he came up. It was hit right down the line, we just couldn't get to it. To end up tying the game on a ball like that, it would've been a little bit deflating, but they came back in the dugout bound and determined that they were going to win the game right then and there."

The sweep over Chicago capped a 5-1 homestand that saw tremendous starting pitching performances, and Guthrie's no-hit bid was perhaps the finest of them all. The righty ended up surrendering a pair of unearned runs on three hits in 7 2/3 innings. He didn't receive a decision but continued his great August. Guthrie is 2-1 in four starts this month with a 0.94 ERA. He hasn't allowed an earned run since Aug. 3 and has lasted at least seven innings in each of his last three starts.

"Just making good adjustments that are allowing me to make more quality strikes," Guthrie said of his recent success. "We played great defense, as well, which I think is even more important than making good pitches, at times, in that guys position themselves well and make the tough plays. Ultimately, I think there's a little more quality strikes down in the zone, and I'm giving myself a chance to succeed."

While the homestand's finale didn't end with the franchise's first no-hitter since Bret Saberhagen no-hit the White Sox in August 1991, it did end with a sweep of Chicago and vaulted the Royals into third place, ahead of the Indians.

"It was great for us to come in and play this club -- after just sweeping Toronto, they came in playing very well -- to play as well as we did," Yost said. "It was a full-team affair -- starting pitching, bullpen, clutch hitting, defense. It was a great series for us."

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