CHICAGO -- White Sox ace Chris Sale entered Tuesday's battle of unbeatens with more hype than Josh Tomlin, his mound counterpart from Cleveland. It's understandable with Sale's pedigree, nine straight wins and 1.58 ERA. But it was Sale who got the early hook and Tomlin who cruised to his seventh
CHICAGO -- White Sox ace Chris Sale entered Tuesday's battle of unbeatens with more hype than Josh Tomlin, his mound counterpart from Cleveland. It's understandable with Sale's pedigree, nine straight wins and 1.58 ERA. But it was Sale who got the early hook and Tomlin who cruised to his seventh straight victory during the Indians' 6-2 win at U.S. Cellular Field.
"You watch Sale's first couple of pitches, and you're like, 'Who's going to hit this guy?'" Indians manager Terry Francona said. "It was like electric. But [Tomlin] obviously settled down. He threw an absurd amount of strikes and commanded everything and gave us a chance. When we got some hits, they were real meaningful."
"Any time you see that, you are surprised," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of Sale's struggles. "This is an off night for him. The best part is it's not anything physical as far as he was hurting. He had velocity. He probably had too much of it, I think, on secondary pitches."
• In his first loss, Sale shoulders all the blame
Sale breezed through the first 2 2/3 innings, striking out five, but then walked Jose Ramirez as the culmination of a 10-pitch at-bat. Francisco Lindor, who is 8-for-16 lifetime against Sale, singled and Mike Napoli tripled home two runs on a ball that fell in between left fielder Melky Cabrera and center fielder Austin Jackson. The Indians scored three in the third and three more in the fourth, with Sale lasting 3 1/3 innings, allowing six runs on seven hits, while striking out seven and walking four.
"They're going to hit good pitches, they're going to hit bad pitches," Sale said. "This is professional baseball, anything goes. All in all it just wasn't my night."
Before Tuesday, Sale had given up 12 runs in 68 1/3 innings. Tomlin, meanwhile, limited the White Sox to two runs on five hits over eight innings, striking out six and walking one. The Indians have won two straight in this four-game set and have Corey Kluber on the mound going for the series win Wednesday. The two teams are tied at 20 losses, although the White Sox hold a 1 1/2-game lead. The White Sox are 4-10 in their past 14 and are 3-6 on their 10-game homestand.
• Under the radar, Tomlin keeps getting it done
Jose Abreu broke out of his offensive doldrums with his first three-hit game of the season. He is batting .394 over his past 10 games against the Indians.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Two-out terror: Sale got the first two batters out in the third, then the Tribe wore him down. The Indians struck for three runs in the third, fouling off 17 pitches to force Sale to throw 43 in the inning. The biggest hit was a Napoli triple that fell between Jackson and Cabrera, resulting in two RBIs -- and a less-than-graceful slide into third. Napoli later scored on a Juan Uribe single.
"We talked before the game -- one of the best ways to get to good pitchers, beat them, is maybe to get them out of the game," Francona said. More >
"They're grinders. They're where they are for a reason and you've just got to find a way," Sale said. "You've got to find a way. That's what the good ones do and I wasn't that tonight."
Baserunning blunder: The White Sox chipped into a five-run Cleveland lead in the fourth when a 6-5-3 double play, driven by poor baserunning, ended the frame. Avisail Garcia hit a hard shot fielded by Lindor at shortstop, and he was able to freeze Brett Lawrie in front of him. A rundown ended with Uribe tagging him out and then firing across the infield back to Napoli to nail Garcia, who had strayed too far off of first. More >
Making it look easy: Lindor had hits against Sale in the first, third and fourth. His fourth-inning line drive to center scored Rajai Davis and chased Sale. Lindor improved to a .500 career hitter against Sale
"Off a guy like that, if you hit what he wants you to hit, he's going to dominate," Lindor said. "He's going to do whatever he wants. I was just trying to stay in my zone. He gave me a couple of pitches to hit."
Starting it right:Adam Eaton delivered the first leadoff homer of the year for the White Sox and the fifth of his career, launching a 0-1 Tomlin pitch out to right field. Eaton has three homers after setting a career high with 14 last season, and added a single in the eighth.
"I don't know if I would consider that a slide. That looked like a car accident." -- Francona, on Napoli's slide
• Napoli caps 10th career triple by sliding into third on his face
"Sometimes the best fall, and he's the best. Sometimes in baseball you can't be perfect. Sometimes you are going to miss." -- Garcia, on Sale
"Well, they capitalized on a few mistakes that I made in that inning, out over the plate. Hit a couple changeups. The one that Napoli hit was a changeup. I put down the wrong fingers today." -- White Sox catcher Alex Avila, on Sale
The White Sox used a manager's challenge in the ninth when Napoli was safe at second on a stolen base. After the play was reviewed, the call stood as safe.
HE'S IN THE K ZONE
Sale's opening strikeout of Davis gave him sole possession of eighth on the franchise's all-time strikeout list. He finished with seven, giving him 1,080, and making his next target Gary Peters at 1,098. Sale's old friend John Danks is at 1,102.
Indians: Right-hander Corey Kluber starts the finale of this four-game series Wednesday at 2:10 p.m. ET. Kluber is 4-4 with a 3.66 ERA in 13 career games against the White Sox.
White Sox:Jose Quintana (5-3, 1.98) gets the call for the final game of the homestand Wednesday at 1:10 p.m. CT. Quintana lost his last start against the Royals, giving up three runs on five hits in the sixth after allowing one hit over the first five.
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Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.
Cody Stavenhagen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago and covered the Indians on Tuesday.