Breaking losing streaks is a cliched responsibility of the ace starting pitcher, but sometimes the team really is on a four-game losing streak, and really hasn’t won since the last time said ace single-handedly obliterated the opposition for them.
1. On such a premise, Chris Sale set out to improve on his 8-0 record against an Astros lineup that had tuned up his compatriots for 11 runs in the first two entries of this series.
And to be honest, it looked pretty easy. Sale always makes pitching look easy, but recently he’s been making it look easy compared to 2015 Chris Sale too.
He allowed one soft single through the first five innings, shut out the Astros through the first seven innings, and weathered an Evan Gattis solo shot in the eighth to throw his third complete game of the season. In 107 brisk pitches, Sale added to his MLB lead in wins (9), now leads the AL in innings (68.1) and is breathing down Jose Quintana‘s neck for the AL ERA lead (1.58).
2. But the solo shot did complicate things. Sale immediately burning through his insurance run as he entered the ninth inning with a rested and ready David Robertson in the bullpen, added to the fact that he was missing armside to start the ninth, all demanded complete faith in his total dominance to stick with him through the end.
Sale validated the decision. He dialed up a 94 mph fastball with life to blow away Jose Altuve for the first out, and capped off the night with a backdoor slider off that froze Tuesday’s villain, Tyler White.
3. There have been plenty of nights where we have been able to gawk at how Sale’s impossibly nutty stuff and life allows him to pitch over clunky command. This was not one of those nights. Sale was so precise, all of his dominance just came from hitting his spots in the zone.
He threw an impossible 80 of 107 pitches for strikes, he threw first-pitch strikes to 24 of 31 batters, and nine of his 12 whiffs came just off his fastball, as he reserved his looping slider for nailing the corners. Sale threw nothing but strikes, and whether or not hitters chased in vain was just window dressing. He’s indomitable when he’s pitching this way, and he has so many other ways to do it as well.
4. The little bit of run support the White Sox provided came from very odd sources, as Astros starter Collin McHugh would have been the pitching star on almost any other night (7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, BB, 8 K). The Sox staked Sale to an early lead in the second when Todd Frazier nubbed an infield single too deep for Altuve to retrieve in time. After teasing at testing Gattis’ arm for a while, Frazier finally made his rush and nabbed second on a pitch in the dirt, then came around to score when DH Jerry Sands looped an RBI single off the end of the bat over Altuve’s head.
Another infield single keyed a run in the seventh, as Jimmy Rollins placed a swinging bunt against the shift down the third base line. Rollins too abused Gattis to steal second, advanced to third on yet another Sands single, before easing home when Alex Avila fisted a sacrifice fly to left.
5. Sands was a forgotten man during Avisail Garcia‘s hot streak, but was the only member of the lineup with multiple hits Thursday night as he subbed in for the slumping DH. Rollins, out of the second spot in the order on a rare occasion, added a sharp night in the field to his role in the seventh inning rally.
Team Record: 25-16
Next game is Friday at 8:10pm CT vs. Kansas City on CSN
Lead Image Credit: Kim Klement // USA Today Sports Images