It was Chris Sale's first Opening Day start. And it was Tyler Flowers' first start as a No. 1 catcher. For the White Sox battery, the script couldn't have been written any better.
Sale pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings and Flowers homered against Royals ace James Shields, and the White Sox held on for a 1-0 victory on Monday.
Addison Reed allowed a walk to Eric Hosmer in the ninth but retired Jeff Francoeur for the last out on a grounder to shortstop Alexei Ramirez after Hosmer stole second.
"It was awesome,'' Sale said of Flowers going deep. "Not only was he there defensively all game, but what better way to win a 1-0 game than to have your partner in crime hit one in the seats.''
Matt Thornton pitched the White Sox out of a jam, striking out cleanup man Mike Moustakas with runners on first and third.
"Thornton came in and probably got the biggest out of the game,'' Sale said.
Sale, who signed a $32.5 million contract extension during spring training, was at the top of his game, striking out seven and walking one while allowing seven hits before leaving in the eighth after throwing 104 pitches.
"He did a good job of keeping his emotions in check; he was excited,'' manager Robin Ventura said. "It's what you expect in a lot of ways. He's a special kid.''
Reliever Nate Jones walked Billy Butler to put two Royals runners on base. Thornton, touching 97 mph with his fastball, then came in to finish the inning.
Flowers' leadoff home run in the fifth inning against Royals right-hander James Shields broke a scoreless tie, giving the White Sox a 1-0 lead. The homer was the first by a Sox catcher on Opening Day since Sandy Alomar Jr. hit one in 2004. Flowers is taking over for A.J. Pierzynski as the No. 1 catcher this season.
Sale was backed by solid defense, including a diving grab by second baseman Gordon Beckham on Lorenzo Cain's liner with a runner on first and no outs in the seventh. Sale then got Jeff Francoeur, who had singled in his first two at-bats, to rap into a 5-4-3 double play started by third baseman Jeff Keppinger and turned by Beckham.
The White Sox and Royals both wasted a scoring opportunity in the first three innings.
The Sox threatened against Shields in the second when Dayan Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez singled to put runners on first and second with one out. Flowers, after fouling off four pitches, was called out on a fastball on the inside corner. Gordon Beckham, after getting ahead 3-1 in the count, struck out swinging on a changeup.
Sale got out of a tougher jam in the top of the third after Jeff Francoeur singled to lead off, Alex Gordon walked with one out and Escobar Alcides reached on an infield single behind second base to load the bases. Sale struck out Butler and got Moustakas on pop fly that Beckham caught in short right.