MINNEAPOLIS — Chris Sale had his seventh consecutive double-digit strikeout game Wednesday afternoon, but, as things would go in this letdown of a White Sox season, the red-hot White Sox left-hander fell short of a record shared by all-time greats Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson.
And yes, the White Sox lost to the Minnesota Twins, 6-1.
Sale gave up six runs, five earned, as he continued to struggle against the Twins, against whom he owns a 1-3 record with a 6.46 ERA. Against everyone else, Sale is 5-1 with a 1.88 ERA. The Twins bunched enough hits against him (he allowed eight over 6 2/3 innings) to score three runs in the fourth and seventh innings.
Sale, who struck out 10 including prized prospect and leadoff man Byron Buxton four times, was one of three pitchers along with Hall of Famers Martinez and Johnson to have 12 or more strikeouts in five consecutive starts. Martinez did it in 1998 with the Seattle Mariners and Martinez in 1999 with the Boston Red Sox.
Sale fell short of breaking the record but joined Martinez, Johnson and Nolan Ryan as only pitchers since 1914 with seven straight games with double-digit strikeouts. In the Twins’ three-run fourth, Sale’s streak of 38 innings with a strikeout came to an end. It was the longest such streak since Twins lefty Johan Santana had strikeouts in 39 straight innings in 2002.
“These guys find a way to get it done when they get guys on base,’’ Sox manager Robin Ventura said of the Twins (39-33), who dealt the Sox (31-40) their 10th loss in 13 games.
One of those losses was Sale’s last start in which he struck out 14 Texas Rangers in eight scoreless innings. In this one, the Sox were held to three runs or less for the 10th time in 11 games. They also had more errors (three) than runs.
“We’ve got to muster something better than we did today,’’ Ventura said. “We’re beating that drum a lot.
“If he goes out there and every guy that’s going out there, if you’re feeling like you give up more than two, you’re going to get beat, it’s tough to pitch like that.’’
Sale was asked again if it’s tough pitching for a team like the Sox. After the Rangers game, he stood up loud and clear for his teammates. This time, he just look annoyed by the question.
“We’ll be fine,’’ he said tersely.
But it was yet another unsightly Sox performance. Center fielder Adam Eaton, who singled and tripled, was out on a close play at first after he failed to run hard on a ball he thought was caught by shortstop Eduardo Nunez. Eaton also let Shane Robinson’s RBI single in the seventh go under his glove, allowing a second run to score and giving Robinson a double.
Shortstop Alexei Ramirez and third baseman Conor Gillaspie made errors on throws that pulled first baseman Jose Abreu off the bag (neither plays figuring in the Twins scoring). And Ramirez, before retiring Kennys Vargas on an inning-ending grounder in the fourth, first looked to second apparently thinking there was a force play there.
The Sox’ run came on Adam LaRoche’s homer, his ninth, against Twins starter Phil Hughes (6-6). That gave Sale a 1-0 lead in the second.
That one run was the same support Sale had last time out.
“I go out to pitch,’’ he said. “I’ve got one job to do and that’s get as far into a game and keep it to as little runs as I can and didn’t quite do that today.
“[Being in Johnson’s company] is a lot cooler to other people than it is to me but I appreciate it. It’s cool to toss around but it would be a lot better if we were winning games.’’