The big showdown coming into Sunday had us wondering if Chris Sale‘s ramped down approach would work again, this time against a powerful Baltimore offense. Instead the White Sox offense chasing off a typically wild Ubaldo Jimenez took center stage.
1. The Sox torched Jimenez for a five-run fifth inning in which his control problems erupted. After Dioner Navarro and Austin Jackson led off the innings with hits, Jimenez loaded the bases by plunking Adam Eaton in the back of his shoulder. After a run apiece scored on Carlos Sanchez‘s fielder’s choice and a Jose Abreu single, Jimenez loaded the bases again by nailing Todd Frazier on the hand, inducing a brief scary moment.
Abreu was barely thrown out at home when he tried to make Melky Cabrera‘s RBI knock into a two-run single, but Jimenez still did the work of pushing Frazier to third with a wild pitch, and loaded the bases again by walking Brett Lawrie. Pushing Cabrera to second allowed for a bloop single from designated hitter Jerry Sands to plate two, giving the Sox a five-run inning with just one hard-hit ball.
Of course Lawrie punished Jimenez plenty when he launched a solo shot to center the previous inning, his third in as many games.
2. That outburst put Sale’s shaky day with his new approach into a softer focus. Despite staring down the most powerful offense he’s dealt with this season, Sale still started the game sitting as low as 87 mph with his fastball, but wasn’t showing any increased control to justify it. A fastball-heavy approach combined with a lack of top-end velocity didn’t do much to fool the likes of Manny Machado (2-for-2 with a walk against Sale), and the poor control combined with a wacky zone from home plate umpire Gerry Davis (four walks) meant Sale didn’t have a single 1-2-3 inning in five and third innings.
Sale showed some vintage fight in his later innings. He struck out Mark Trumbo with a slider that hit the right-handed DH in the knee after letting the first two runners reach in the third, and struck out five over the fourth and fifth innings. Despite the worst stuff of his year and a somewhat disconcerting lack of ability or willingness to charge up into the upper-90s, he left in the sixth without a run against him.
3. Sale would get charged with a run anyway, since he was brought back out for the sixth despite already having 107 pitches and 6-0 lead. After Chris Davis led off the frame with a single to right, Sale induced a would-be double play ball from Pedro Alvarez that Lawrie bobbled.
Jake Petricka came on to relieve and for the most part couldn’t hit a target even if he was inside of one, immediately allowed an RBI single to Nolan Reimold that got placed on Sale’s tab, hurling a two-base wild pitch and walking another. Matt Albers came on and provided a momentary fright when his inning-ending flyout to Joey Rickard was a few feet shy of a three-run homer to drag the Orioles back in it.
4. Lawrie had a huge day at the plate, reaching base all five times, with a homer, double and two walks. He and Cabrera, who also collected three hits, have matching .377 on-base percentages a day into the month of May. All told, the bottom of the White Sox order collected 11 hits, scored and drove in five runs each, and drew four walks. There must be a sort of ‘don’t fix what ain’t broke’ logic playing into not moving Cabrera or Lawrie up in the order despite their nuclear starts, and as long as that results in wins, I can only work up so much breath to complain.
5. With a day off on Monday, the White Sox closed up their east coast road trip with a 5-2 mark and finished a slate of 19 games in 19 days with a 13-6 mark and a three-game lead in the AL Central.
Team Record: 18-8
Next game is Tuesday at 7:10pm CT vs. Boston on CSN.
Lead Image Credit: Evan Habeeb // USA Today Sports Images