Chris Sale throws first complete game in White Sox’ win
BY TONI GINNETTI email@example.com June 3, 2012 9:48PM
Chris Sale watches Chone Figgins’ fly to left land in Eduardo Escobar’s glove to end the eighth. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: July 7, 2012 8:20AM
Adam Dunn has played first base behind Chris Sale in the left-hander’s last two starts, one a 15-strikeout performance and the other a complete game Sunday over the Seattle Mariners.
“I have to remember I’m playing first and not get caught up in the moment,” Dunn said. “He works quickly, throws strikes. He’s something special. He’s like nothing else out there.”
On the mound hours after being named the American League pitcher of the month for May, Sale was nearly a one-man show in the White Sox’ 4-2 victory.
Not only did his first career complete game give the Sox their 10th victory in the last 11 games, it spared the bullpen after all seven relievers and starter Jose Quintana were used in a 10-8, 12-inning loss Saturday.
“That was the mind-set going in, knowing that everyone had been working really hard [in the bullpen] lately,” Sale said. “I just wanted to come out and be efficient and keep my team in the game.”
Sale (7-2) limited the Mariners to five hits, the only damaging one a second-inning home run by Miguel Olivo after Justin Smoak had walked. He walked two and struck out eight.
“He was great,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He was jumping ahead, making guys swing and miss. He keeps getting better, if there’s any way to do that after 15 strikeouts [in his last outing against the Tampa Bay Rays].”
Sale threw 119 pitches Sunday after throwing 115 in the 15-strikeout game.
“We had a plan with him, and he was within a few pitches of where we wanted to be,” Ventura said. “It helped he had a seventh and eighth inning that were pretty quick.”
Sale got the offensive support he needed from Gordon Beckham (RBI single), Alex Rios (two RBI singles) and Brent Lillibridge (bases-loaded walk), all off starter Kevin Millwood (3-5).
“It’s fun to play behind him because he’s got 15-strikeout stuff and he’ll keep hitters off-balance,’’ said Beckham, who extended his hitting streak to 10 games. “I think a lot of people thought he’d be good but didn’t expect this. He’s awesome.”
Sale’s supporting cast included most of the Sox’ bench, giving Ventura something extra to cheer.
“After [the game Saturday] and the stretch we’ve been on, I just felt today was the right day to do that with all those guys,’’ he said.
They included Lillibridge, Kosuke Fukudome (walked and scored) — though he left after two innings with a stiff back — Tyler Flowers (2-for-4) and Eduardo Escobar (2-for-2).
“I can’t imagine hitting off him because it’s hard enough catching him, honestly,’’ Flowers said of Sale’s velocity and array of pitches. “He throws fastballs for strikes early, his breaking ball has been there all year and a changeup. Combine that with location, and it’s all there.’’
Sale’s complete game was the Sox’ fourth this season, and he lowered his AL-leading ERA from 2.34 to 2.30. He is 4-0 with a 1.26 ERA and 36 strikeouts in his last four starts, all coming after he was shifted temporarily to the bullpen May 12 because of a tender elbow.
“Physically, I feel better and better every time out,” he said. “Pitching is so much about finding grooves. I’ve been fortunate to be able to find that groove and let it go.”