Chris Sale’s return from suspension was unremarkable, but he was steady and effective for six innings. It was not enough. Each team protected its home park and this season’s crosstown series ends in a tie following Thursday night’s North side victory at Wrigley Field.
1. The Sox scored early in the first inning on a Melky Cabrera double that plated a speedy Tim Anderson. If it were up to Joe McEwing, the run never scores, but Anderson motored right past the third-base coach’s stop sign and was validated 90 feet later with the team’s only tally.
The Cubs came right back as a leadoff walk to Dexter Fowler evened the ledger when he came around to score on a Kris Bryant double. In the third, Sale skipped the formalities when putting Fowler on, hitting him with a pitch instead of walking him, and ended up walking Bryant to avoid a replica of the previous RBI opportunity. It was just a stall, Fowler still came around to score on a Ben Zobrist single to give the Cubs all the lead they would need.
2. Chris Sale waited until the fourth inning to record his first strikeout, and managed four overall, all looking. This isn’t to say that he was economic with his pitches. Despite the limited damage of two runs, Sale used 111 to get through his six innings. Two runs and four strikeouts over six innings is a very acceptable outing, though not especially impressive for Chris Sale. Nate Jones did the heavy bullpen lifting, throwing 1.2 innings and getting lifted after allowing Ben Zobrist to score, who led off the eighth with a double. Tommy Kahnle battled Javier Baez for 10 pitches before walking him and making way for Dan Jennings, who retired Tommy LaStella to spare us the spectacle of Aroldis Chapman batting.
3. After two of the first three Sox hitters got hits off John Lackey, he proceeded to retire the next 14 he faced. Who broke up the stretch? Chris Sale of course. White Sox pitchers get hits. It’s what they do. Sale would end up stranded along with Cabrera who singled in the sixth inning as well; the threat ended as he induced Jose Abreu to pop up on the infield following a decent battle. The taxing top half of the inning, combined with a Cubs scoring opportunity in the bottom half, hastened Lackey’s departure. With Addison Russell on second and two outs, Sale intentionally walked Matt Szczur to bring the pitcher’s spot up. The National League chess match worked in Ventura’s favor – at least in terms of getting Lackey lifted – Maddon sent David Ross up to pinch hit for Lackey, and Sale promptly struck him out.
4. The Cubs newly bolstered bullpen goes a long way towards helping Joe Maddon make such decisions regarding his starting pitcher. It’s not quite Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, Chapman, but the North side squad was fully prepared to roll out the back end of their Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon, and Chapman bullpen and see how it fared. Strop completed a scoreless seventh, but a Tyler Saladino leadoff double off of Strop in the eighth gave the Sox some brief hope. After moving to third on an Anderson groundout, Chapman was called upon to earn the four out save. Striking out half of the Sox batters he faced, he converted without any real threat.
5. Abreu had been collecting hits in the week leading up to this game, 10 for 24 in the last seven contests. All but one of those hits were singles, and the man hasn’t connected with a ball that cleared an outfield fence since June 23rd, over 100 at-bats ago. The overwhelming feeling while watching Abreu go 0-for-4 tonight was that he is struggling. That feeling speaks volumes about how different it feels to watch the once-fearsome slugger play without power, even when there is some basic production remaining.
Team Record: 50-52
Next game is Friday vs. Minnesota on CSN at 7:10pm CT
Lead Photo Credit: Caylor Arnold – USA Today Sports Images