In the past, a five-inning outing in which he allowed three runs probably would mean a loss for Chris Sale.
It didn’t Friday night.
Sale (3-0) lasted only five innings, allowing three runs (all in the fifth) and six hits while striking out five. That qualifies as the worst of Sale’s three starts, but it was enough in a 9-6 victory against the Cleveland Indians, thanks to the White Sox’ potent attack.
The Sox got a career-high four RBI from Conor Gillaspie and two hits apiece from Adam Dunn, Adam Eaton, Gillaspie and Alexei Ramirez, who extended his season-opening hitting streak to 11 games. The Sox had 11 hits and have scored 16 runs in the last two games.
This new reality is welcome for Sale and manager Robin Ventura.
“They just kind of have some jump when they come out. They just feel like they’re going to score,” Ventura said. “With the way the game was going, [Sale] probably earned one of these after last year. But offensively they just feel every inning they’ve got a chance. [It’s] indicative of when Eaton [with] two outs gets on and just kind of makes it happen.”
Ventura referred to the sixth, when Eaton’s two-out bunt single started a rally that was capped by Gillaspie’s two-run double. Such a moment — and Eaton’s three runs scored — prompted Sale to give the center fielder some high praise.
“The feel from this year is completely different. We’re battling, we’re fighting,” Sale said. “For me, I know I have a very biased opinion, but I think Adam Eaton’s the most exciting player in baseball, in terms of every time he gets up to the plate, something’s going to happen — whether it’s a close play or it’s a bunt single or a double in the gap or a stolen base.
“He has never once taken a second off or taken a step back.”
Eaton returned the compliment but also told Sale to “save it.” And like Sale, he had praise for the lineup, which flourished despite an 0-for-4 night by Jose Abreu.
“You know, it’s just compete,” Eaton said. “If you compete every pitch, it doesn’t matter what the score is, you go out with your best effort and you compete, good things are going to happen. Guys are seeing pitches and playing good defense behind [Sale]. Good things are going to happen.”
Sale and the Sox need no reminder that good things didn’t happen too much last season, especially against the Indians, who beat the Sox 17 times in 19 games. Sale got his first victory against them since 2012. Last season, Sale went 0-4 with an ugly 8.61 ERA against the Indians.
Sale failed to hold a 3-0 lead, giving up three runs in the fifth before being replaced by Jake Petricka to start the sixth. But by the time Petricka was on the mound, the Sox had jumped back in front 5-3, showing the resilient mind-set Ventura seeks.
“It can be something that just carries on,” Ventura said. “You feel that vibe every night — that they’re grinding for every at-bat. You look and you might not have anything going but you still make a guy have a 20-pitch inning “You just carry that over inning to inning and eventually you break through. That’s the feeling they have.”