ARLINGTON, Texas — Chris Sale was brilliant — again — and Jose Abreu returned from a three-game absence Wednesday night to deliver a home run and three RBI as the White Sox rolled to an 9-2 victory over the Texas Rangers.
Sale struck out a season-high 13 while allowing three hits and two hits in seven innings, his third consecutive game with double-digit strikeouts and fourth in his last five. Sale struck out 12 Baltimore Orioles in his previous start last Thursday at Camden Yards, that one following a 10-strikeout effort against the Minnesota Twins on May 23 at U.S. Cellular Field.
“Any time you go out there and you feel like you get in a rhythm, that’s all pitching really is is finding a groove, getting in a rhythm, just trying to — I wouldn’t say be comfortable — but find the groove and ride it as long as you can,” Sale said. “They don’t last forever.”
Sale’s slider has become increasingly effective, and it shows in his strikeout rates. He became the fourth Sox pitcher with 10-plus strikeouts in three straight starts, joining Ed Walsh (1910), Floyd Bannister (1985) and Edwin Jackson (2010).
“Yeah, for sure,” he said. “I worked on it in bullpens, flat ground and stuff like that. It wasn’t just really that good of a pitch early on, so just try to mix it in as much as I can and still not trying to overthrow it.”
The Sox (24-27), who got clobbered 15-2 in the first game of this series, are 5-5 on their 11-game road trip through Toronto (1-2), Baltimore (1-1), Houston (2-1) and Arlington (1-1) that concludes Thursday night. Rookie left-hander Carlos Rodon (1-0, 3.45 ERA) will oppose Rangers right-hander Yovani Gallardo (5-6, 3.88).
“We knew with that doubleheader mixed in [in Baltimore] when there that should have been an off day, you just start adding games, and where we were and traveling around and the teams you’re playing, it can be a tough trip and you can get buried,” manager Robin Ventura said. “We’ve still got some life to us.”
Abreu belted a 410-foot, two-run homer against Rangers right-hander Nick Martinez to cap the scoring in a six-run second inning for the Sox, who also got a two-run single from Carlos Sanchez and two-run double by Adam Eaton.
Abreu added an RBI single in the fourth to go with the homer, his ninth of the season, and Tyler Flowers belted a two-run homer in the seventh, his third. Flowers was 3-for-5, raising his average to .216.
Sale improved to 5-2 and lowered his ERA to 3.27. He threw 112 pitches, his last one popped up by Jake Smolinski to Sale himself for the third out of the seventh inning. Sale had struck out Adam Rosales, who came into the game 6-for-11 in his career against Sale, and Joey Gallo, who made a splashy major league debut the night before with a home run and three hits, for the first two outs of the inning. After catching the pop-up, Sale tucked the ball in his back pocket as he walked off the field.
“Oh, for sure. I don’t look too athletic out there very often so when I get a play, I’m keeping it,” said Sale, who earlier in the game got his right shoe tangled up on the pitcher’s mound and did a cartwheel after throwing a pitch.
Gallo struck out three times before hitting a home run against left-hander Zach Duke in the ninth. Gallo is the first Ranger to homer in each of his first two major league games.
Rangers right fielder Shin-Soo Choo had words with Sale in the third inning after Sale knocked him down on fall four. It was the third pitch that was up and in to Choo.
“Yeah, I mean I understand where he’s coming from,” Sale said. “There’s no doubt about it. In that situation, especially with a man on, I’m not trying to hit him. I think we all saw the cartwheel before. But I get it. I throw three up there at his face, I wouldn’t like it either. I understand where he’s coming from but on the flip side of that, it’s not the time or the place to hit somebody. It’s one of those things.”
The Rangers are 27-26.