Sale's hot stretch enters historic territory
Southpaw's scoreless streak ends, but strikeout totals continue to rise
CHICAGO -- White Sox ace Chris Sale is on quite an impressive streak over the last month or so and is racking up strikeout numbers like no one has in the long history of Chicago's South Side franchise.
About the only person who doesn't seem impressed is Sale.
"I don't pay attention to any of that," he said after the White Sox 3-1 victory over the Astros on Monday night. "I try to just come in every day and do my job. If it's good, it's good. If it's bad, it's bad. Just go out there and give it everything I've got."
Lately it's been quite good.
Sale (6-2) recorded his 50th career win by dominating the young Astros hitters. He allowed just one run -- snapping his scoreless innings streak at 22 2/3 -- on five hits with one walk and 14 strikeouts in eight innings.
The left-hander has struck out 10 or more in four straight starts. He's the first White Sox pitcher to accomplish that feat and the first in the Major Leagues since David Price did it in five straight games for the Rays last season. Sale also has struck 12 or more in three straight games, becoming the first in the Majors to do that since Randy Johnson in 2001.
Even Mother Nature was no match for Sale. He shrugged off a 25-minute rain delay before the start of the game (after he warmed up) and another 38-minute delay in the bottom of the third inning.
"He was fantastic," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "He's really been on a roll and some of the numbers he's starting to rack up are impressive, especially how long this organization has been here.
"Even getting up there in the last inning, going out there, there's just a different mentality with him when it gets late in the game now. I think experience and being through this before, he really wants to finish it off."
Forget the strikeout numbers. Going deep into games is what Sale seems to care about most. He has pitched at least seven innings in six straight starts.
"It's important, especially early in the year," he said. "Any chance I can give those guys in the 'pen a rest, you want to. That's really the name of the game as a starter. Pitching deep into games is probably more important than anything else."
Sale had thrown over 100 pitches after seven innings on Monday and sat through two rain delays, but there was no question he was coming out for the eighth inning -- not in his mind and not in his manager's.
"I think there's times where he's been gassed going back out or getting ready to go back out there and you really don't want him to go out there like that," Ventura said. "He has a new gear now that he's acquired with having the experience of going out there and starting and knowing what he means to our organization."
Sale finished after 119 pitches and struck out the last two batters (Jonathan Villar and Jose Altuve) he faced. David Robertson pitched the ninth for his 11th save.
The only run the Astros managed against Sale came in the fourth when prized Houston prospect Carlos Correa beat out an infield hit with two out, scoring Villar from third base. That tied the score at 1, but the White Sox answered in the bottom half when Avisail Garcia hit a two-homer to make it 3-1.
"I think that was probably the most important play of the game, really," Sale said. "He's been hot lately and it's been fun to watch."
You could say the same thing about Sale.