Sale ties mark with 12-plus K's in 5th straight
Lefty on historic run, matches mark set by Pedro, Big Unit
CHICAGO -- There's no certain way to predict if Chris Sale someday will reach the highest of Major League Baseball heights much like Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson have achieved.
But based on Sale's performance over his last five or six starts, including 14 strikeouts during Friday's 2-1 loss to the Rangers, the White Sox southpaw is pitching at a Hall of Fame-caliber level.
Sale joined Martinez (Sept. 4-27, 1999, with Boston) and Johnson (June 19-July 11, 1998, with Seattle) as the only pitchers in Major League history to record 12-plus strikeouts in five consecutive starts. He has fanned 93 over his last 61 1/3 innings and matched a season high with his strikeout total against the Rangers over eight innings.
As humble as he is talented and competitive, Sale was honored to be in such an elite group but isn't spending much time on the accomplishment.
"Those are Hall of Famers," Sale said. "Those guys are the best at what they did. It's an honor to get my name mentioned with them, but it's something more for you guys and friends and family. I'm here for one reason and that's winning ballgames. All the other stuff is more of a distraction than anything, really."
There was plenty of other stuff stemming from Sale's start at U.S. Cellular Field.
He became the first White Sox pitcher to strike out at least 14 and not issue a walk, per Elias Sports Bureau. Sale joins Max Scherzer (twice) and Jose Fernandez as the only pitchers since 2012 to have multiple starts of eight-plus innings with zero earned runs allowed and 14-plus strikeouts. In an amazing twist, Sale is winless in both of those starts.
Sale extended a franchise record for double-digit strikeout games to 25, and he has struck out at least one in 35 straight innings. That represents the longest streak in the Majors. He has struck out 10-plus batters in six straight starts, becoming the first pitcher to do so since Johnson in 2002 with Arizona.
For 5 2/3 innings on Friday, Sale had a perfect game. That ended when Hanser Alberto dropped a soft single into center field, and Sale settled for a two-hitter over 111 pitches.
"It's remarkable. The guy's a great pitcher," said White Sox closer David Robertson, whose blown save in the ninth ultimately cost Sale the victory. "You don't see many guys go out there and take the ball and go eight innings like that and strikeout as many as he does. He has exceptional stuff. It's fun to watch him pitch. I wish I had been a little better tonight to get him a win."
"What did he punch out? Fourteen, 15, something like that?" Texas starter and winning pitcher Colby Lewis said of Sale. "He definitely had it going on. I just tried to go out there and match. If he's doing it, then I try to go out there and have quick innings, too."
Minnesota stands as Sale's next opponent on Wednesday at Target Field. With the dominance Sale has shown since May 12, the Twins could be considered the next victims of the three-time All-Star.