CHICAGO -- Jose Contreras became a different pitcher halfway through last season. Since that dramatic turnaround, brought about when he changed arm angles and starting throwing strikes, few pitchers in baseball have been better.
Contreras and two relievers combined for a one-hitter Monday night, sending the struggling Kansas City Royals to their eighth straight loss as the Chicago White Sox scored five in the first and posted a 9-0 win.
"Since halfway through last year this guy has probably been the best pitcher in the major leagues," Chicago's Paul Konerko said of Contreras. "I don't think anyone's been better. I'm just glad I don't have to face him. He's nasty. On a cold night, you give him some runs to work with and he's going to be tough."
Contreras was 11-2 in the second half a year ago and won his final eight starts to get the White Sox into the postseason. He was 3-1 in the playoffs and the Game 1 starter in all three of Chicago's series.
Now, he's at it again.
Contreras (2-0), 6-0 in his career against Kansas City, retired the first 10 batters before Mark Grudzielanek doubled past third base with one out in the fourth for what turned out to be the Royals' lone hit.
"That's the first time I've seen him and I was very impressed," Grudzielanek said. "That was the only chance I really had to get something out over the plate and hit. ... He's got great stuff."
Contreras walked one and struck out six in seven strong innings on a cool 48-degree night. Boone Logan and Cliff Politte completed the shutout with one inning each.
"It was one of those games where you almost feel you should have seen a no-hitter. He had that kind of stuff," said Konerko, who homered in the first as did teammate Joe Crede. "He was coming right at them."
Contreras had no problems being lifted after throwing 101 pitches, saying he was satisfied with his seven-inning outing.
He's just a changed pitcher since the White Sox acquired him from the Yankees on July 31, 2004.
"Throwing from the side has allowed me to find the strike zone," he said through a translator. "My confidence level is completely different than it was two years ago."
Chicago, which has won seven of its last eight, jumped on Joe Mays (0-2) early. Tadahito Iguchi singled, Jim Thome walked and after a high-and-tight pitch from Mays brushed him back, Konerko hit a three-run homer to left, his fifth of the season.
Jermaine Dye reached on third baseman Mark Teahen's error and after a fielder's choice, Crede homered to left for a 5-0 lead.
Mays seemed to settle down after the rough first before the White Sox revved it up again in the fifth when Scott Podsednik hit a leadoff double, Iguchi singled, Thome had an RBI single and Konerko delivered an RBI double. Podsednik's RBI single finished Mays in the sixth and gave Chicago an 8-0 cushion.
In his longest outing of the season, Mays lasted 5 1/3 innings, giving up 11 hits and eight runs -- six earned.
"For his sake and our sake, I hope he (Mays) got some sort of feel for what he needs to do," Royals manager Buddy Bell said.
The Royals still do not have a victory by a starting pitcher this season (0-7). Kansas City's only two wins came over the White Sox on April 7-8 and the Royals haven't tasted victory since.
Konerko has 13 RBI during a seven-game hitting streak. He's homered four times in the last four games.
The White Sox's last combined one-hitter came on May 25, 1979 against California when Ross Baumgarten went eight innings and Randy Scarbery one. ... Contreras allowed the Royals just two hits over eight innings on Oct. 3, 2004. ... Before the game, the Royals recalled RHP Joel Peralta from Triple-A Omaha and put RHP Steve Stemle on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right elbow. Peralta relieved Mays in the sixth. ...Chicago rookie CF Brian Anderson snapped an 0-for-16 skid with a second-inning single and then struck out three straight times.