SAN FRANCISCO — Jake Peavy was one of the first to tout Chris Sale as the next big thing, but as Peavy said Tuesday, “I wasn’t some prophet.”
Sale’s talent was plain to see when he and Peavy were teammates during Sale’s first full season in 2011. What Peavy liked, and thought would set Sale apart, was his makeup.
“He was always asking questions to everybody,’’ Peavy said before the Sox opened a two-game interleague series against the Giants at AT&T Park. “That’s how you grow as a young player. You can keep your mouth shut and sit back and watch or you can ask questions along the way, and Chris was always inquisitive. ‘What do you do on your start day?’ From Day 1, he was asking questions and wanting to get better.’’
The Giants had no answer for Sale in the series opener Tuesday night. The Cy Young candidate struck out 12 and walked two in eight scoreless innings, allowing four hits before the Giants scored two runs against Jake Petricka in the ninth inning to cost Sale his 11th victory.
Right fielder Adam Dunn hit a two-run homer in the first, and Sale did his part to make that hold up with his 16th game with 10 or more strikeouts, including six this season. Big Ed Walsh, who pitched 13 seasons for the Sox from 1904 to 1916, holds the franchise record with 17 double-digit strikeout games. Sale is in his fourth full season and third as a starter, and he added to his franchise record with his ninth game with 12 or more strikeouts.
Petricka almost escaped after giving up singles to load the bases with no outs in the ninth. Gordon Beckham’s backhand dive and flip with the glove to start a double play put the Sox an out away from a 2-1 victory, but Brandon Crawford singled in the tying run.
Peavy, who will start for the Giants against his former team Wednesday afternoon, said he prided himself in showing Sale the ropes.
“Any information I gave him, he ran with it, but I don’t take any credit for how good this kid is going to be,’’ Peavy said.
Peavy had been through a bevy of physical ailments, and he warned Sale about the importance of listening to his body, knowing when to skip a side day or make it a light one. Or not take one at all. They talked about knowing when to suck it up and pitch and when to be smart and back off.
“I tried to speak from experience on that,’’ he said. “I was adamant about that. I wish I was less hard-headed in my younger days. The stuff I learned going through hard times, you’re going to be more adamant about that.’’
Sale trimmed his ERA from 2.14 to 2.01 and has a shot at becoming the Sox’ first ERA champion since Joel Horlen led the American League with a 2.08 ERA in 1967. The Mariners’ Felix Hernandez has him by a few points now at 1.95.
Sale, 25, missed five weeks with a flexor muscle strain but says he feels strong and fresh as he pushes ahead in the home stretch of the season. Catcher Tyler Flowers said Sale is a better pitcher because his fastball command is better and he’s using his changeup more.
“But the other thing for him is he’s missing in good spots,’’ Flowers said.