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White Sox can’t solve Bruce Chen in 3-0 loss to Royals

KANSAS CITY MO - SEPTEMBER 19:  Alejandro De Az#30 Chicago White Sox sticks out his tongue as he walks

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 19: Alejandro De Aza #30 of the Chicago White Sox sticks out his tongue as he walks to the dugout against the Kansas City Royals in the third inning at Kauffman Stadium on September 19, 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

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Updated: October 21, 2012 3:04PM

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The way the Detroit Tigers have torn into the Oakland Athletics the last couple of days, it’s becoming obvious that the White Sox will have to win the American League Central on their own.

In other words, bring it ­every day.

In their 3-0 loss Wednesday to soft-tossing left-hander Bruce Chen and the Kansas City Royals, the Sox couldn’t deliver in RBI situations to back a solid pitching performance by ace Chris Sale.

The Sox, who had one hit in 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position, had five hits against Chen (11-12). They popped out eight times against him, including three in foul territory.

“It seemed like we were running a pop-up drill for them,’’ said Sox manager Robin Ventura, clearly unhappy with his team’s performance, which ended a five-game winning streak. “It just wasn’t a good effort.

“We didn’t have good swings with guys in scoring position. [Chen is] a guy who frustrates you that way because he doesn’t throw 97-98. He’s letting you hit it, but he doesn’t let you get a good swing at it.”

The Tigers cut the Sox’ lead to two games with 14 to play. The Tigers have one game left with the playoff-contending A’s. The rest are against the Twins and Royals, who own the two worst records in the American League.

The Sox (81-67) have three games left against the contending Los Angeles Angels and four against the Tampa Bay Rays.

“We’re going to have to win, no matter what,’’ Ventura said. “And that’s our business. We can’t sit and hope somebody else takes care of it for us. We have to win and be able to do that. It’s more difficult when you play like this.”

Billy Butler drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, and Alex Gordon drove in two with a double that knocked Sale out in the seventh. Sale, working out of trouble in all but two innings, would have escaped one last time if left fielder Dayan Viciedo caught Gordon’s drive to the warning track. Viciedo got to the right spot but couldn’t corral what looked like a makeable catch, and the Royals led 3-0.

“It was a hard-hit ball, and I was just running fast towards it and lost it for a second,’’ Viciedo said.

Without any runs on the board, those two didn’t cost the Sox, anyway. Their inability to cash in on a bases-loaded, no-out situation did. That’s what happened in the fourth after Chen walked Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko to start the inning before Alex Rios filled the bases with a sharp single to left. Free-swinging Viciedo (second pitch) and Alexei Ramirez (first pitch) popped out, and Tyler Flowers was called out on strikes.

Rios’ one-out double in the second was wasted, as was Konerko’s one-out double in the sixth. De Aza — who tripled and singled three times — was thrown out stealing in the first and was left on third after the triple.

Viciedo, Ramirez, Flowers and Gordon Beckham were a combined 0-for-14 at the bottom of the lineup. Viciedo probably will be replaced by Dewayne Wise in the series finale Thursday.

“It’s a tough loss,’’ said Rios, who was 3-for-4. “Sale was throwing a pretty good game, and we had a chance to do some damage but we didn’t execute.

“We’ve been relying on home runs … but we have to be better than that. Bruce Chen had a good game. He was mixing up very well and hitting his spots. He had control of the ball tonight. He pitched very well.’’

The Royals improved to 11-6 against the Sox.

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