MINNEAPOLIS – Chris Sale is a big part of the AL Cy Young Award conversation, his reliever-to-starter transition season for Chicago already a rousing success.
There's only one achievement he wants to talk about, though, and that's a spot in the playoffs for the White Sox.
Sale threw six scoreless innings to notch his 17th victory after being rained out the night before, helping the White Sox keep their one-game AL Central lead by beating the Minnesota Twins 6-0 on Friday.
"Any time he pitches you feel confident that you're going to have a chance to win the game. Spirits are high," manager Robin Ventura said.
Sale (17-6) scattered three singles and struck out five without a walk, cruising to his third win in three starts against the Twins this year, surrendering only up two runs in 20 innings. Sale lowered his ERA to 2.78, third in the AL, and he's tied for second in wins. The Cy Young competition this fall is tough, but Sale has earned a spot among the front-runners.
Just don't expect him to acknowledge that.
"When you start thinking about things like that you get a little selfish, and what's really important slips away," the 23-year-old Sale said. "I want to play for this team. I'm not trying to win any awards or anything like that. The only award I want is a big, shiny trophy at the end."
Sale was supposed to pitch on Thursday at home against Detroit, but the last matchup of the season between the two division front-runners was postponed until Monday by the wet weather. The Tigers, who beat Cleveland 4-0, are one game back in the race.
"As long as we win, what they do doesn't really matter," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "We've just got to go out and try to win games, and hopefully we can do that for the next couple of days."
Dayan Viciedo had two RBIs, Kevin Youkilis homered and Alex Rios doubled, scored and drove in a run for the White Sox, who played without injured slugger Adam Dunn for the seventh straight game. Dunn, who has a strained right oblique muscle, could return to the lineup on Saturday.
Twins starter Esmerling Vasquez (0-2) walked three straight batters in the fourth inning after a one-out single, with Viciedo's walk forcing in the second run for Chicago. Then with two outs in the sixth, after a broken-bat single by Pierzynski and a walk to Viciedo, Kyle Waldrop relieved Vasquez. Alexei Ramirez greeted him with a single to make it 3-0.
The White Sox are 12-4 against the Twins this year, but they're just 5-12 against the Tigers with losses in nine of the last 10 meetings. With 19 games remaining, the White Sox play legitimate contenders only eight more times including the pivotal makeup game on Monday. They can't afford to slip up against faded foes like the Twins, who are jostling with the Indians for fourth place.
Sale made sure they didn't, letting only two runners reach second base. Youkilis helped him out at third base with consecutive catches of hard line drives, going down on the ground to his right to snag Jamey Carroll's and then gloving Josh Willingham's on the next play.
"It seems like every time we need him to go out and throw a good game he does," Pierzynski said.
The Twins were, again, impressed.
"The ball sometimes disappears," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That's telling you that the guy has great stuff."
NOTES: LHP Francisco Liriano (5-11, 5.37 ERA) will pitch on Saturday against his former team so the White Sox can give starters Jose Quintana and Gavin Floyd extra rest. Liriano has been bouncing back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen. RHP Samuel Deduno (6-3, 3.55 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for the Twins, coming off a strong start on Monday when he beat the Indians with seven innings, six strikeouts and three hits, two runs and three walks allowed. ... Floyd in 2008 was the last to win 17 games for the White Sox. ... Joe Mauer missed his fourth straight game due to back spasms, but the Twins said he's feeling better. With Ryan Doumit also day to day with a strained rib cage, Chris Herrmann was called up from Double-A New Britain to be the emergency catcher. ... Ventura said when Dunn returns Dewayne Wise will be in the mix with Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza for time in LF and CF.