CHICAGO -- When the game came down to the end, there was a battle over baseball history, although Joey Gathright really didn't realize that. He was just battling for a base hit.

Gathright got his hit, a single to lead off the Royals' ninth, breaking Bobby Jenks' streak of consecutive batters retired at 41.

Even though Jenks didn't break it, he will share the Major League record with Jim Barr of the 1972 San Francisco Giants. Beyond that, Jenks then got three straight outs and his 34th save as the White Sox trimmed the Royals, 4-3.

"I didn't know anything about it until after the game," Gathright said.

With the Royals down by a run, he was just interested in getting a rally started against Jenks, who had not pitched since Aug. 12. Who needs a closer when you're losing eight games in a row?

Jenks and Gathright had a six-pitch battle, with the single skipping through the left side on a 1-2 count.

"That was a great at-bat," Royals manager Buddy Bell said.

The hit was Gathright's third of the game and made him 11-for-20 (.550) on this road trip. Jenks had him fouling off pitches and was trying to move him back off the plate.

"He's trying to make me a little uncomfortable," Gathright said. "I was trying to get back in focus and just try to get a hit, try to get something started."

Alas, that something fizzled after Esteban German bunted Gathright to second base. David DeJesus grounded out, and Mark Grudzielanek flied out to end the game.

It would have been more fitting, of course, had Grudzielanek belted a home run. That would have been a flashback to Aug. 16, 2006.

On that night, Grudzielanek agreed to a new contract with the Royals before the game. Then he went onto the field and belted a three-run homer in a 10-4 victory over the White Sox.

Almost exactly a year later, he agreed to another new contract for 2008 with the Royals, again in Chicago.

There was a tease of déjà vu in the sixth when Grudzielanek ignited a three-run inning with a leadoff double. His drive sent center fielder Jerry Owens crashing into the wall.

Emil Brown belted a two-run homer, his sixth at the two ballparks in his sweet home Chicago. He seems to do well in the old hometown.

"I do things other places, too," Brown said. "I'm nationwide."

That blast came against Mark Buehrle, who's usually hard on the Royals but soft on Brown. Against Buehrle, Brown has hit .424 (14-for-33) with three homers and eight RBIs.

Alex Gordon's double just inside the right-field line prompted the dismissal of Buehrle, despite the 2-2 score and his 16-6 record of success against the Royals.

Ehren Wassermann relieved him, and he drilled John Buck with a pitch before getting an out. Matt Thornton was summoned to face Gathright, for a left vs. left matchup. It didn't work. Gathright slapped an RBI single for a 3-2 Royals lead.

The White Sox got two runs off Gil Meche in the fifth when Jermaine Dye's leadoff double was followed by Scott Podsednik's drive into the right-field bullpen.

"In the sixth inning, I threw a 3-1 pitch to Dye and a 3-1 pitch to Podsednik, and other than that, that was pretty much my game," Meche said. "I got beat by falling behind a couple of hitters -- that's kind of the story of my life."

Meche was lifted in the sixth with two on and two outs. Lefty Jimmy Gobble got Podsednik to tap into the third out.

David Riske took over in the next inning, and he surrendered the lead. Danny Richar lined a home run to right. Owens bunted safely, stole second and raced home on Josh Fields' single, and it was 4-3.

Richar? Fields? Did Riske know those guys?

"No," he said, "but now I do."

Riske took the loss, his third this season despite a glossy 2.53 ERA in 53 relief appearances.

"Everyone on the team did their job, except me," Riske said. "That's what it boils down to."

And, in the end, the Royals and the White Sox again were tied for fourth place in their struggle to escape the bottom rung of the American League Central.

The Royals had been alone in fourth place for two days, ahead of another team for the first time since April 6.