It has taken Chris Sale five years since he was drafted 13th overall by the White Sox to become a three-time All-Star. As for a being a big-headed superstar, well, that’s probably going to take a lot more time.
In fact, it might never happen.
“You can’t forget where you come from,’’ teammate Hector Noesi said. “And I think he doesn’t forget. That’s why he’s humble.’’
With a season-high 14 strikeouts over eight innings in a 3-1 victory over the Houston Astros, Sale (6-2) humbled yet another lineup before 17,352 fans at U.S. Cellular Field. A 25-minute rain delay before the start and a 38-minute delay after the third inning did not bog down Sale, who would be on a scoreless innings streak of 27 2/3 innings with some sharper defense after the delay, when the Astros pushed across their run on 2012 No. 1 draft pick Carlos Correa’s infield single scored Jonathan Villar. Villar led off the inning with a soft single that got past shortstop Alexei Ramirez and Correa advanced to third when Melky Cabrera slipped on the wet grass in left field.
Sale (6-2, 3.04 ERA) became the first White Sox pitcher to string four games in a row with 10 or more strikeouts, and with three straight games of 12 strikeouts or more he became the first major leaguer since Pedro Martinez to do that since Martinez had four in a row in 2001, according to ELIAS. In netting his 50th career win, Sale struck out 10 or more batters for the 23rd time, the most of any Sox pitcher, and he’s only in his fourth season. He has 14, 13, 12 and 10 strikeouts over his last four starts.
“He’s really been on a roll and some of the numbers he’s starting to rack up are impressive, especially how long this organization has been here,’’ said manager Robin Ventura, who compared Sale to Randy Johnson.
In his last six starts, Sale has allowed three, four, five, three and five hits. His 1.35 ERA during that span is 1.35.
Sale’s reaction? “I don’t pay attention to any of that,” he said. “I just try to come in every day and do my job. If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s bad it’s bad. Just go out there with everything I’ve got.”
Cabrera drove in a run with a single in the second, scoring Adam LaRoche (double), and Avisail Garciahit a two-run homer for the Sox in the fourth. The Sox' only other hit against Lance McCullers was a single byJose Abreu that preceded Garcia's homer, his seventh. David Robertson pitched the ninth for his 11th save.Sale, who walked one and gave up five hits, received a visit from Ventura – who was checking his ace’s fuel tank – with two outs in the eighth. Ventura returned to the dugout, and Sale struck out Jose Altuve.
“His ability to go hard and soft is really what makes him tough,’’Ventura said. “When a guy has to cover 97 [mph] and also gets an 82, it’s tough to cover that. I don’t care how good a slider is, if his fastball and changeup are good he’s going to be tough.’’
As impressed as he is by Sale’s stuff, left-hander Jose Quintana said it’s Sale’s “focus” that he admires most.
“He has pretty good stuff, with three very good pitches but the way he fights every game, to go along with that, it gives everyone in the dugout a sense of confidence,’’ Quintana said. “The whole team feels it knowing you have a great chance to win on his day. He’s No. 1 and I try to follow him.’’