MILWAUKEE — Chris Sale was back to his familiar ways, and the White Sox finally won in unfamiliar territory – away from home.
After two out-of-character bad starts in a row, the ace left-hander struck out 11 Milwaukee Brewers over eight innings Tuesday night at Miller Park, carrying the Sox to a 4-2 victory that halted a seven-game losing streak on the road. The Sox, now 3-12 as visitors and 13-17 overall, needed an extended effort from Sale because of an overused bullpen.
It was the 19th double-digit strikeout performance of Sale’s career and his highest total since he fanned 13 Tigers last Aug. 13. He walked one and gave up three hits.
“As a starter you want to get as far into the game as you can, especially after having a couple of really bad ones and leaving my guys out to dry,’’ said Sale, who was tagged for 14 runs over his two previous starts. “You want to have a start like this after a couple of bad ones. Rest the guys a little bit and just build off of it.’’
The Sox broke a 2-all tie in the eighth inning on a sacrifice fly by Alexei Ramirez that scored Jose Abreu, who added an RBI single in the ninth. David Robertson pitched a perfect ninth for his sixth save in seven opportunities.
Sale (3-1, 5.09 ERA) quickly fell behind when Jean Segura led off the first inning with a triple and scored on Ryan Braun’s ground out. The Sox scored two runs in the fifth on consecutive doubles by Ramirez and Tyler Flowers (2-for-4, RBI) and an RBI single by Micah Johnson against Brewers right-hander Mike Fiers. The Brewers tied it up on Elian Herrera’s homer leading off the fifth.
After that, Sale struck out five of the next six hitters he faced and allowed one baserunner, a walk with two out in the eighth.
“It was big,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. “Once he really had command of it, he had that slider he really needed on some guys. This is just a little more vintage of what you would expect out of him.’’
Throwing on five days rest after serving a five-game suspension for his role in the Sox’ brawl with the Kansas City Royals on April 23, Sale threw a season-high 110 pitches. The 14 runs over his previous two starts were the most for a two-start stretch in his career. Pitching coach Don Cooper chalked it up to “trying to strike guys out with strike one.”
Sale even flashed some glitzy defense, make a behind-the-back grab of Braun’s comebacker in the fourth. The Sox once again didn’t play clean D as third baseman Conor Gillaspie misplayed a Carlos Gomez ground ball in the first and Micah Johnson couldn’t catch Jose Abreu’s throw when Sale caught Gomez stealing.
“That has to clean up because we can’t expect pitchers to go out there and try to overthrow and try and [try to strike everyone out],’’ Ventura said. “They can do it, but you don’t want it to feel like they have to do that to stay away from getting in trouble. So we’re going to have to be better.’’
“All in all [Sale did] a good job attacking guys,” Flowers, his catcher, said. “He did a good job down and away to righties, that’s usually a tougher pitch for him, that gives him a pretty decent weapon to challenge them if they want to be aggressive early.
The Sox (13-17) are now 3-12 on the road. The rubber game of this series against the Brewers (12-22) is Wednesday night. They play the Oakland Athletics (12-22 through Monday) in Oakland this weekend.
“Now is the time to get going,” general manager Rick Hahn said.