KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The way he has thrown and feels, Derek Holland believes he's deserved to wear the daily champion wrestling belt already once or twice this season.
He finally received it on Thursday afternoon.
Following a dominant outing well supported by his offense, Holland proudly bore a championship wrestling belt during his postgame interview. Holland delivered 6 2/3 sharp innings and Jose Abreu and Matt Davidson both homered as the White Sox pounded the Kansas City Royals 8-3 in front of 36,525 at Kauffman Stadium. Holland allowed two runs and struck out seven to help the White Sox split a four-game series with the Royals.
"Definitely (earned it)," Holland said. "I thought I had really good command of everything. For the most part, it's always going to be the defense. If I'm keeping them on their toes, they are going to make the plays. I attacked the zone big time today. My pitch count was fairly low for the most part. My offense did a great job putting runs on the board."
After every victory, White Sox players hold a ceremony to determine the player of the game. Said player then receives the WWE belt that Holland brought with him to the White Sox when he signed a one-year deal for $6 million in December.
Since joining the club, Holland has suggested he's as healthy as ever after three years of dealing with injuries. The veteran lefty said all spring he was excited to work with pitching coach Don Cooper -- that being here had Holland best positioned to regain the form that produced 8.6 f-Wins Above Replacement from 2011-13.
He provided another demonstration of how good he can be against the struggling Royals. Working quickly and mixing all five pitches against an aggressive Royals lineup, Holland soared through the early innings. He made fast work of Kansas City, getting his offense back into the dugout at an expedited rate through each of the first four innings. Holland needed only 41 pitches to complete those first four and his offense rewarded him with five early runs.
"Especially against a team that's kind of struggling right now, you don't want to let them get any momentum," third baseman Matt Davidson said. "We did a good job. We scored our runs, he went out and put up a zero and that's all you want."
"As a defender, he's working quick, he's throwing strikes -- it's everything you ask for."
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Holland could have asked for a little better luck in the fourth when Mike Moustakas ended his streak of 10 straight batters retired to start the game with an opposite-field double just inside the line. Otherwise, Holland didn't find trouble until the seventh, when he already possessed a seven-run lead.
Holland struck out two batters in the first and fifth innings and one each in the third, fourth and sixth. He allowed one earned run, three hits and walked one.
The effort raised Holland's K-rate to 20.2 percent, his highest mark since he finished the 2013 campaign at 21.1. Last season, Holland finished with a career-low 14.5-percent strikeout rate.
He also lowered his ERA to 2.02 in 35 2/3 innings.
"I think he's doing exactly what everybody expected of him to be honest," manager Rick Renteria said. "He's been around, he's a veteran presence. He came in wanting to have success. He's been doing a really nice job, throwing a lot of strikes, mixing in secondary pitches very well.
"He's very poised out there and continues to give us innings and keeps us in the game and fortunately we score a few runs and stay there."
Holland didn't have to be half as good as he was the way the White Sox hit Ian Kennedy.
Abreu gave the southpaw an early cushion when he obliterated a 2-2 fastball for a two-run homer to left center. Abreu's fourth round-tripper had an exit velocity of 113 mph.
An inning later, Davidson hit a 452-foot homer into the waterfall in left center to make it 3-0. A last-minute addition after Todd Frazier was scratched with a stiff back, Davidson also singled and walked in four trips.
Cody Asche added some padding to the lead in the fourth inning with a bouncing, two-run double down the right-field line. Avisail Garcia put the game out of reach in the eighth inning when he followed a single by Melky Cabrera (2-for-5, two runs) and an Abreu double with a two-run, seeing-eye single to right.
Yolmer Sanchez also had a sac fly for the White Sox, who improved to 14-10 against American League Central opponents. Last season, the White Sox finished 32-44 in the AL Central.
"My job once they do that is to make sure I shut the other team down," Holland said. "I thought we did a good job of establishing in and out, up and down as well. The defense is right there making those plays."
"Once they put up runs on the board I still have to treat it like a 0-0 game. I can't get caught up whatever they do. I have to get out there and do my job."
He did once again and it finally resulted in a championship belt.