CHICAGO – White Sox pitcher Chris Sale and tough luck have gone hand in hand this season.
In only his second year in the Sox’s rotation, Sale has established himself as one of the premier starting pitchers in baseball. Yet one glance at his record suggests otherwise. Sale was charged with the loss Monday against Detroit as the Tigers beat the Sox, 7-3. It didn’t help Sale’s cause that the Sox were facing right-hander Max Scherzer.
“Obviously, you’ve got to be a little bit more focused with a team like this, the talent they have over there and going up, pitching against Scherzer,” Sale said.
The Sox struggled against Scherzer, who held them to two runs in eight innings. That resulted in Sale’s record dropping to 6-9. Sale pitched at least eight innings for the fifth time this season. However, it’s largely been wasted by the Sox with his 1-3 record and 1.76 ERA in those outings, with the offense averaging 2.2 runs.
“There are a lot of games we’ve had where we haven’t stepped it up offensively to give Chris that kind of support,” Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “And some guys are fortunate they do get those runs. Anyone who does what Max has done has had a little of both, kept the other team from scoring and gotten a few runs.”
After Monday’s loss, a morose Sale needed only 15 words to describe his start.
“I think I did all right. I could’ve done a little bit better, but stuff happens,” he said.
Only once in Sale’s 18 starts this season has the Sox offense scored six runs. Across the field, Sale’s counterpart, Scherzer, has benefited from one of the league’s best offenses, scoring six or more runs 11 times. Sale has the worst run support in the majors (2.61 runs).
“I know he’s frustrated and I hope everyone in here is frustrated, too,” Adam Dunn said.
Sale’s frustrations showed after the fifth inning, when he was forced to intentionally walk Miguel Cabrera with a runner on third, first base open and lefty Prince Fielder on deck. Fielder walked on four pitches and both runners eventually scored on Victor Martinez’s two-out RBI single.
After Sale escaped without further damage, he was visibly upset in the dugout, walking into the tunnel leading to the Sox’s clubhouse. Ventura eventually followed Sale, who drew the attention of teammates in the dugout while talking to pitching coach Don Cooper.
“He does [have passion], but I’m the one making that call,” Ventura said of Sale. “He needs to have a little more composure and get that guy and not worry about what happened before.”
Sale’s frustration – likely built up over the numerous starts – is understandable but probably won’t dissipate anytime soon. Despite the potential to finish with a sub-.500 record, Sale deserves to be mentioned among the best pitchers in the game.
Scherzer’s 14 wins are tied for the most in MLB while Sale’s nine losses are tied for ninth most. But not only does Sale have a better ERA than Scherzer (2.81 compared to 3.14), he edges Scherzer on batting average on balls hit in play are nearly identical (.275 to .273) and Sale’s wins against replacement (WAR) bests Scherzer’s 4.5 to 3.8. Scherzer can claim an advantage in strikouts with 157 to Sale’s 142, though both are considered to be among the best power pitchers.
• Meghan Montemurro covers the White Sox and Cubs for Shaw Media. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Sox Insider and Inside the Cubs blogs
at NWHerald.com and on Twitter @Sox_Insider and @InsideTheCubs.
Tigers 7, White Sox 3
Tipping point: With the Sox trailing Detroit by a run, shortstop Alexei Ramirez's error to start the fifth gave the Tigers an opportunity, and they took advantage. Victor Martinez's two-out, two-run single off Chris Sale extended the Tigers' lead to 3-0. The sloppy play didn't end there for the Sox. Two errors in the ninth, including another by Ramirez, led to three more runs and ended any realistic hopes for a comeback.
On the mound: Sale did his best to match Tigers starter Max Scherzer, who did not allow a baserunner through the first four innings. Sale allowed four runs (two earned) on seven hits. He needed 119 pitches to last eight innings, but he struck out 11 while walking three, taking the loss.
At the plate: The Sox managed only four hits against the Tigers, and their two runs came from solo homers by Conor Gillaspie and Dayan Viciedo. Off the disabled list, Paul Konerko went 0 for 3 with a strikeout in his first game since July 3.
Under the radar: Sale's 11 strikeouts marked the fifth time this season and ninth time in his career (47 starts) that he struck out at least 10. He has as many 10-plus strikeout games as former Sox pitchers Mark Buehrle and Jack McDowell combined (nine in 556 starts).