When Chris Sale pitches there’s usually a little something extra to White Sox games. There was the strikeout streak earlier in the season, the funky delivery, and simply the chance to watch one of baseball’s best pitchers do his thing.
“Anytime he goes out there anything is possible. He’s got great stuff so I think anytime that guy toes the rubber there’s probably a glimmer for everybody to see how that first inning goes and see if there’s a possibility,” manager Robin Ventura said before Sunday’s game. “He has the stuff to be able to do that, absolutely. You’re always excited to see him go out there.”
Well, except for when he’s facing the Twins this year.
Sale went three innings and allowed nine hits and six runs while striking out three in the Sox’s 7-0 loss Sunday to Minnesota. Entering Sunday, Sale was 1-3 with a 6.30 ERA against Minnesota this year and those struggles continued as he matched his shortest start of the season – also against the Twins on April 30 – to remain winless since Aug. 21.
The problems picked up right away as he gave up four runs on five hits in the first inning, including Torii Hunter’s three-run homer to end a 10-pitch at-bat. Sale needed 29 pitches to get through the frame, one that only ended after Eddie Rosario was thrown out trying to steal second.
After an easy second, things were looking better in the third when Sale got the first two outs and looked to be through the inning but Adam Eaton misjudged Miguel Sano’s liner to center and let it drop for a base hit. The Twins then reeled off three more singles, bringing in two runs to move in front 6-0 and end Sale’s year against Minnesota with a 7.36 ERA.
Prior to 2015, Sale was 6-1 with a 2.45 ERA pitching against the Twins.
The third inning did bring one highlight for Sale (12-9). With his strikeout of Joe Mauer, Sale became the first Sox pitcher since Ed Walsh in 1912 to fan at least 250 batters.
In what could have been his final game against the Sox, Hunter had two hits and drove in four runs. Kyle Gibson (10-10) went 7 2/3 scoreless innings and allowed five hits for the Twins, who entered Sunday a game behind Texas for the second American League wild card.
Frankie Montas relieved Sale and pitched three innings and allowed one run in his longest big-league outing.