By Bruce Levine-

CHICAGO (CBS) — After running his record to 9-1 on Monday night, White Sox ace Chris Sale put himself deeper into the conversation for a run at the American League Cy Young Award.

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Coming off 11 days of rest (excluding one inning in the All-Star Game), Sale was a bit off his usual dominant self but still plenty good enough to control the Royals’ stagnant offense in a 3-1 win.

Sale allowed seven hits and one run in his seven solid innings on against Kansas City. When reporters asked Sale about a run at the top pitching award, he deferred to his teammates’ prowess for bailing him out and team victories.

Of course, manager Robin Ventura wasn’t shy about plugging Sale for the Cy Young.

“Yes, for sure, absolutely,” Ventura said. “There is no reason why he shouldn’t be in the discussion. I don’t care if he has missed a month or not.”

The numbers all point to a four-pitcher race, with Sale in the thick of it all.

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Mariners ace Felix Hernandez is at the top of his game with an 11-2 record and 2.02 ERA.

Sale is riding along with King Felix, with his ERA only one-hundredth of a point behind at 2.03. Sale leads the AL in WHIP at 0.86, edging out Hernandez’s 0.90.

Also in the mix for top pitcher are Scott Kazmir of Oakland (11-3, 2.38 ERA, 0.98 WHIP), as well as the Angels’ Garrett Richards (11-2, 2.47 ERA, 1.03 WHIP).

Sale missed five weeks with a sore forearm, from mid-April to late May. All of that aside, Sale will be in the mix for best pitcher if he can make the last 12 or so starts that he is set to have over the last 60 games of the season.

“That all is what it is,” Sale said when told his numbers were of Cy Young timbre. “I don’t pay to much attention to that. I have a job to do, so I have to focus on doing that. These are the dog days, and we are in the hunt. You have to bear down and not be thinking about yourself.”

Monday’s victory was Sale’s seventh straight quality start.

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Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.