Stults fades as Sale thwarts Padres' sweep attempt
Lefty surrenders two homers, four runs while lineup manages two hits
CHICAGO -- Chances are Padres hitters couldn't tell you a whole lot about Jose Quintana, who up until a few days ago was scheduled to pitch Sunday for the White Sox.
This much they can be certain about, though. Quintana -- whatever he throws, however hard he throws it- - would have been a much better matchup than the buzzsaw the Padres got instead.
Chris Sale allowed one run on two hits with nine strikeouts in a dominant, complete-game performance as the White Sox salvaged a game in the three-game series with a 4-1 victory over the Padres in front of a crowd of 23,185.
Sale (5-0) ended the game the way he started it, with a strikeout of leadoff hitter Everth Cabrera, as he put the finishing touches on a 100-pitch effort that was every bit as dominant as it was efficient.
"He was on today. He was fresh and you can see why he's one of the best in the American League. It's a deceptive delivery with good velocity, a good slider and a good changeup," said San Diego manager Bud Black.
The only run Sale allowed was a home run to Chase Headley to start the fifth inning. He then allowed a single to Tommy Medica, but those were the only two baserunners in the game.
Sale retired the first 12 hitters he faced in a game he wasn't supposed to start. He was limited in his last start because of a rain delay and was to face Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers in Los Angeles on Monday. But this was his normally-scheduled day and the White Sox opted to flip-flop him and Quintana.
"I was just trying to throw as many strikes as I could. I knew this team was going to come out swinging. Not only that, but quality pitches as well, trying to keep the ball down and get after it a little bit," Sale said.
This didn't bode well for the Padres (26-31), who were going for their first series sweep of the season.
San Diego pitcher Eric Stults (2-6), who is left-handed like Sale but offers an entirely different skill set, as he depends on location and his secondary pitches, was good early, limiting the White Sox (29-29) to one run over the first four innings, that coming on a Paul Konerko home run in the second inning.
Stults would allow another home run, this time to No. 8 hitter Tyler Flowers in the fifth inning, but he liked the way he was throwing up until the sixth. His six strikeouts were a season-high.
"My overall stuff today was one of the best it's been this year, I was down in the zone for the most part. Even the [home run] ball to Konerko was down," said Stults, who pitched in front of 18 friends and family who made the two-hour drive from his native Indiana.
In the sixth inning, Stults allowed a single to Gordon Beckham and issued his only walk of the day with two outs to Alexei Ramirez. Konerko then hooked a curveball down the left-field line that allowed two runs to score to make it 2-1.
"I told him after six [innings] that his stuff was as crisp as I've seen in a while," Black said.
But not nearly as crisp as Sale, who hasn't yielded a single hit to a left-handed batter over 31 at-bats in 2014. Right-handers haven't had a whole lot of luck, either.
"He locates, throws three pitches for strikes. I think he's a guy who is tough on guys facing him for the first time. He just attacks the zone," Headley said.
"And he's got the stuff where he can do that."
Headley struck out in his first at-bat Sunday as Sale threw him four changeups. A switch-hitter who was hitting right-handed, Headley backed off a plate a little, knowing he could potentially get beat inside but that he could get a pitch to drive.
"I laid off a couple of changeups down and got a heater and reacted to it," he said.
Medica, who started in left field, left the game in the eighth inning with what Black described as a quad strain. He will be evaluated Monday when the team returns to San Diego to open a three-game series against the Pirates.