ANAHEIM, Calif. — Chris Sale was breezing along Saturday night, on track to easily win his sixth game in a row without a loss.
Sale seemed to have a victory in his pocket when he took a five-run lead into the eighth inning, but the Los Angeles Angels got to him for four hits, including Mike Trout’s game-tying grand slam to center field on Sale’s 112th pitch. It was a stunning turn of events for the ace left-hander.
“I just know the ball went over the fence, and I wanted to rip my own head off,” Sale said.
The Angels plated the game-winning run in a 6-5 victory on Erick Aybar’s single against Jake Petricka.
“It sucked,’’ Sale said. “You put your heart and soul into a game like that and it unravels. Disappointed. Threw a good pitch to a better hitter.”
“That ball, not too many people hit that ball,’’ White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Yeah, it’s frustrating. It’s part of baseball.
“He was going pretty good at that point. He’s a pretty good pitcher, and you can’t take him out of the game at that point. They were finding holes.’’
Going into the game, the two-time All-Star was the owner of an 0.72 ERA over his last four starts, and this one was looking like those last four before five Angels reached base in succession (one on an error by Alexei Ramirez).
“Smart? Yeah. He’s an intelligent kid,’’ pitching coach Don Cooper said before the game. “He’s gaining more major-league experience. But his intelligence goes up tenfold because of the physical stuff he commands. Our biggest role is to keep him healthy so he can continue to do this.’’
The Angels did not get a hit until Josh Hamilton singled to right in the fifth. It marked the first hit by a lefty all season against Sale, whose velocity touched 95 in the ugly eighth. Cooper and manager Robin Ventura were not overly concerned about Sale’s pitch count as it climbed above 100 in the eighth, even though he had missed five weeks on the disabled list.
“If you have a bad delivery any pitch is dangerous,’’ Cooper said. “His delivery is solid, man. To me, keeping him healthy is watching the workload. Give him the chance in every game to go as far as he can and be great because you can’t stop a guy from being great. Nobody stopped Sandy Koufax, Randy Johnson, all these great guys.’’
Cooper said he “gets a kick” out of suggestions that 127 pitches against the Boston Red Sox led to Sale, 25, going on the DL.
“The Hall of Fame is filled with guys who’ve done that way many times more than we’ve done it,’’ Cooper said. “You want to give him a chance. This is a really good pitcher that if we keep him healthy and he has a chance to be great just by doing the same thing for five more years. Nothing more.’’
Adam Dunn homered for the second time in two nights, Alejandro De Aza had two doubles and a sacrifice fly and Adam Eaton and Gordon Beckham each singled in a run in a two-run third inning against Angels starter Matt Shoemaker.
Sale has continued to feature his changeup more and his slider less to diversify his arsenal, perhaps to take strain off his arm.
“We’re using more changeups because we don’t want him getting crazy with the breaking ball,’’ Cooper said. “But if we need to whip them out we will. We’re going to whip out whatever we got to whip out to get through that inning, to get that win. I just think he’s a terribly talented guy.’’