CLEVELAND – Chris Sale is an All-Star and the undisputed ace of the White Sox.
When he faces the Cleveland Indians, however, the left-hander has had little success.
The Indians rocked Sale for the third time this season, ringing up five runs on 10 hits in five innings in a 6-1 victory Thursday.
Ryan Ra-burn belted two homers and drove in four runs for Cleveland, which completed a four-game sweep. The Sox have lost seven straight and 13 of 16, dropping 26 games below .500 for the first time since Sept. 24, 1980.
“I’m not going to sit here and make excuses,” said Sale, whose 2.92 ERA is the seventh lowest in the AL. “I got my butt kicked today. I didn’t feel as good as I usually do, but I’m a professional and I have to find a way to fight through it. They’ve really had my number, though.”
Sale (6-11) fell to 0-3 with an 8.31 ERA in three starts against the Indians in 2013. He struck out six and didn’t issue a walk, but gave up Raburn’s two-run homer in the third inning and his RBI single in the fifth.
Indians manager Terry Francona hesitated to offer a reason for his team’s dominance of Sale.
“When you think you have the answer, you probably don’t,” said Francona, whose club extended its season-long winning streak to eight games. “We have done a really good job against him. I think we match up pretty well because we can send up pretty good right-handed hitters because he’s so tough on lefties.”
Alejandro De Aza accounted for Chicago’s lone run with a homer in the sixth. It was his 13th of the season and spoiled the shutout bid of Indians right-hander Justin Masterson (13-7).
Masterson went 6 2-3 innings, allowing one run on five hits while striking out seven. The All-Star is 4-0 with an 0.85 ERA in four starts against the White Sox this season, only allowing three earned runs in 31 2-3 innings.
Sale hasn’t pitched poorly over his last 11 starts, posting a 3.23 ERA, but a lack of offense by the White Sox has caused him to go 1-9 during that period. On the season, Chicago is averaging a major-league low 1.95 runs with him on the mound.
“It’s never fun losing, and we’ve done a lot of that lately,” Gordon Beckham said. “Chris has such great numbers, but we haven’t gotten him many wins, which is unfortunate. We’re all struggling at the plate right now. It’s annoying, frustrating, whatever for all of us.”
The White Sox split their first 48 games this season but have the worst record in the majors since May 27 at 16-42.
Chicago’s freefall prompted the trades of starting pitcher Jake Peavy to Boston and All-Star reliever Jesse Crain to Tampa Bay while the team was in Cleveland.
“It is tough because we lost our teammates, our buddies, our brothers with Peavy and Crain,” said Sale, who signed a five-year, $32.5 million contract extension on March 7. “We truly spent more time with them than we do our own families.
“In many ways, you don’t really know what the future holds here, but we still have a job to do. We have to take some pride in what we do for a living and try to turn things around.”
Dylan Axelrod pitched the final three innings for the White Sox, surrendering Raburn’s solo shot in the seventh. On Wednesday, the right-hander allowed a 10th-inning, walk-off home run to Carlos Santana as the Indians rallied for a 6-5 win.
Chicago’s relievers went 0-3 with an 8.10 ERA in being swept in a four-game series by Cleveland for the second time this year. The Indians also won all four games of their series with the White Sox from June 28-30, marking the first time they have ever done so twice in a season.
“Credit them, they just outplayed us,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Today is probably magnified because of what happened earlier in the series, but they’re swinging it really well. Chris wasn’t sharp early, but the Indians can really swing it.”
NOTES: Indians OF Michael Brantley struck out in all three of his at-bats against Sale, making him 2-for-16 (.125) with eight strikeouts against the 6-foot-6 lefty. ... White Sox 1B Paul Konerko has 120 career hits at Progressive Field, the most by a visiting player. Konerko and OF Alex Rios were given the day off. ... The White Sox wrap up their seven-game road trip with a three-game series against first place Detroit. Chicago LHP Hector Santiago (3-6) faces Tigers RHP Doug Fister (9-5) on Friday. The clubs play 12 times over the final two months of the season.