As questions were being asked of the White Sox ace, Adam Dunn strode toward his locker and couldn't pass up the chance to take a humorous shot at his teammate making his second start since coming off of a five-week stint on the disabled list for a flexor muscle strain in his left arm.
"Look at this," said Dunn of Sale's postgame interview session. "He threw three innings."
"And he did it yesterday," added John Danks with a laugh.
Mother Nature proved to be just about the only force currently able to topple Sale.
Yes, he did throw three innings as Dunn stated, three hitless innings, and dispatched the Indians (24-29) with a mere 40 pitches. But a one-hour, 58-minute rain delay that began at 8:49 p.m., following a 41 minute pregame delay, left Sale in the dugout when the teams returned to action.
Once that second delay hit about the 45-minute mark, Sale knew his night was over.
"I knew the rain was coming," Sale said. "I just didn't want to acquiesce to the conditions or the rain or anything that affected me. I just wanted to stay the course, go out there like it was a normal one and do my part."
"It's always frustrating," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of the rain that shortened Sale's night. "On the good side, it just helps him health-wise. It just makes him a little bit stronger the next time he comes back out."
So Sale had to settle for continued dominance, while Scott Carroll (2-3) earned the victory in relief.
Carroll gave up more hits than Sale within two batters, as Michael Brantley reached on a one-out infield single. The Indians put runners on first and second in the fourth and had runners on first and third in the sixth against Carroll, but did not score a run in either inning. That sixth-inning rally ended on Yan Gomes' double-play grounder from third baseman Conor Gillaspie to Dunn at first.
As much as Sale knew he wasn't coming back once that rain pushed through, Carroll understood that the new long-relief role meant it was his turn to take over. He mixed in about five cutters to his 51 pitches, using that new pitch to supplement his sinker.
"He has that nice sinker," said Ventura. "If he can keep it down, give us a chance to play some defense, guys play good behind him. He did good. He didn't get behind and start walking guys and put himself in trouble."
"With having a few more under my belt and out of the bullpen, I feel really comfortable," said Carroll, who made his relief debut Sunday against the Yankees. "Things have been simplified in my mind and with my mechanics. I'm not trying to do too much. Mixing the cutter in has been great for me, too, so that was a big pitch tonight."
Ventura's crew scored one run in the third on Gillaspie's run-scoring single off of tough-luck losing pitcher Justin Masterson (2-4), who also didn't return after the second rain delay and fell to 0-3 with an 8.84 ERA over his last four starts. The White Sox (27-27) added a second run on Gordon Beckham's solo homer leading off the fifth against Mark Lowe.
Since talking about how his swing felt as if it was getting close before a May 6 game at Wrigley Field, Beckham is 30-for-83 with four homers and 10 RBIs in 20 games.
Cleveland put at least one runner on base from the fourth through the eighth against Carroll, Scott Downs and Jake Petricka. But the Indians ran out of steam against Ronald Belisario (third save), who worked a perfect ninth with two days' rest.
"We're just not getting the big hit," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. "We had some runners on. We had some pretty good opportunities. We just couldn't push that other run across. It's a long day. It's a shorter day, if you win."
This day could have been even longer for Francona's team, if Sale had stayed in the game. Over his last four starts, including a rehab appearance for Triple-A Charlotte, Sale has allowed one run on three hits over 20 innings, while striking out 35 and walking six. He fanned four and walked one against the Indians.
Even with just the 40 pitches, Ventura indicated that Sale would stay on his regular turn and pitch next on five days' rest Monday in Los Angeles because of Thursday's scheduled off-day. Sale is more than willing to endure the good-natured ribbing from his teammates knowing that his team has won eight of its last 13 and is back at .500, not to mention feeling as good on the mound as he has in quite some time.
"Physically and mentally, I feel as good as I've ever felt," Sale said. "My fastball command is as good as it's been in a long time. Throwing my changeup and slider consistently for strikes helps out a lot.
"[Tyler Flowers] back there, he knows me more than I know myself. He guides me through this and the whole year I don't think I've shaken him off once. A lot of credit goes to him for knowing what I need to do more than I know."