CHICAGO – Chris Sale got into trouble in the fifth inning, allowing back-to-back, two-out singles against the Oakland Athletics. Then the White Sox left-hander escaped the jam with his 10th strikeout.
Sale struck out 11 in 6 2/3 innings, A.J. Pierzynski had a two-run home run in a five-run sixth inning, and the Sox beat the A's 7-3, on, Sunday.
Sale (14-3) reached double digits in strikeouts for the third time this season. He had 10 strikeouts through the first five innings, allowed two runs on solo homers, and walked none.
The Sox lead the Detroit Tigers by two games in the AL Central.
"He was throwing a little harder today than he has in the past few outings," Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "He was able to dial it up whenever he needed it and still was sharp with his slider, too."
Oakland starter Bartolo Colon (9-9) allowed six runs – five earned – and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out two and walked two. With the game tied 1-1 in the sixth, Pierzynski's 23rd homer put the Sox up, 3-1.
Dewayne Wise, in his first start with the Sox this season, added an RBI single. After A's left fielder Yoenis Cespedes committed an error, and Colon issued an intentional walk, Gordon Beckham delivered a bases-loaded, two-run single to make it 6-1.
The A's struggled defensively, making three errors and failing to cover home in the seventh when the White Sox added their final run.
Pierzynski scored from first on Alexei Ramirez's groundout to shortstop as third baseman Adam Rosales and shortstop Cliff Pennington bumped on the play. No one covered home plate.
"They're going to give you something, you're going to go ahead and take it," Ventura said. "A.J. is heads up and he kept going. There was nobody there. Usually guys rotate around."
Sale allowed home runs to Rosales, his second of the year, and Jonny Gomes, who added his 14th. Gomes has homered in three straight games. Derek Norris homered off Addison Reed in the ninth.
Sale improved to 7-2 with a 1.80 ERA at U.S. Cellular Field this season.
"One thing he does great, he changes speeds tremendously," Pierzynski said. "One can be 95 (mph) and the next can get be 86. That's why he gets a lot of groundballs. That's why he gets a lot of popups because guys are constantly off balance because of his stuff and his ability to change speeds."
The Sox took a 1-0 lead on Adam Dunn's sacrifice fly in the third. The A's hit back-to-back, two-out singles in the fifth, but Sale escaped the jam with his 10th strikeout.
Sale was checked in the fifth inning after he twisted his left knee slipping on the infield grass while trying to field an infield single.
After warmup tosses, he remained in the game.
"Everything was fine," Sale said. "It was just something crazy, foot went one way, knee went the other. Kind of nervous at first, and once I got around and moving on it, everything was fine."
Pennington made two errors, but also had two singles against Sale.
"It wasn't our best defensive day," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "The play was embarrassing, obviously, when Pierzynski went all the way around. [Catcher Norris is] trying to cover third when the third baseman and shortstop converge.
"You either have to read that and get back or the pitcher has to rotate around and get home. We didn't cover that very well, so that doesn't sit very well with anybody."