ST. LOUIS — Chris Sale is the shining light in this White Sox season of gloom.
The three-time All-Star left-hander on Tuesday joined Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez as the only pitchers in major-league history to strike out 10 or more batters in eight consecutive games by fanning 12 St. Louis Cardinals in eight innings in a 2-1 victory in 11 innings at Busch Stadium.
Tyler Flowers, who has caught every one of Sale’s strikeout barrages, belted his sixth homer in the 11th to make a winner of reliever Daniel Webb. David Robertson put two Cardinals on in the 11th but got his 16th save as the red-hot Cardinals (51-25) lost for only the eighth time at home.
It took every last ounce of energy in Sale’s rail-thin body to hold the Cardinals to a run. Sale, who rarely bats but got a chance in this interleague game, even provided half the Sox offense by getting his first careet hit and scoring the first run.
“I got to do a few things I normally don’t do,’’ said Sale, who showed off his dirty pants at the knee after a slide into second base. “It was fun. It was cool. I tell these guys I had two accidents today: the homer and the hit.’’
The homer was Randal Grichuk’s 448-foot blast leading off the fourth, one of six Cardinals hits against him.
The hit was an opposite-field broken bat single over shortstop Jhonny Peralta against Cardinals right-hander Lance Lynn leading off the third inning. Sale would score the Sox’ first run on Jose Abreu’s grounder up the middle that bounced off second base and into center field, dashing home from second.
He was sure to secure the broken bat and ball. He kind of shrugged off the strikeouts excellence, though.
“It’s cool that’s stuff you talk about later on,’’ Sale said. “You start worrying about stuff like right now and we won’t be talking about that anymore for sure.’’
So many of Sale’s postgame media scrums have followed tough-luck defeats. The Sox are now 4-4 during his strikeout madness streak of 10, 12, 13, 14, 12, 14, 10 and 12, and Sale is 0-2 with two no decisions in his last four starts. Sale has but six wins for a team that ranks last or second to last in the American League in numerous offensive categories. The Sox’ sluggish defense has often made him work overtime.
Again on Tuesday, Sale had to amp it up in the eighth inning as he approached his 116 pitches when Peralta’s foul pop fell harmlessly between Abreu, right fielder Avisail Garcia and second baseman Carlos Sanchez with two runners on and one out. Abreu came up sore on the play.
So Sale took care of business himself, striking out Peralta and getting Mark Reynolds on a fly to center. There were signs that Sale was tiring but manager Robin Ventura stayed in the dugout.
“In the end I don’t have a better guy in the bullpen than him,’’ manager Robin Ventura said.
Making the 100th start of his career, Sale had at least one strikeout in each of the first six innings as he want after the mark of Martinez, who ran off eight consecutive starts with 10 or more strikeouts in 1999.
In his fourth season as a starter, Sale is on pace for 282 strikeouts, which would be the highest total in the majors since Randy Johnson struck out 290 in 2004. His six games of 12-plus strikeouts are the most in a season since Randy Johnson (eight) and Curt Schilling (six) in 2002.
Over his last 10 starts covering 76 innings, Sale has 115 strikeouts while allowing 44 hits. Johnson, a Hall of Famer, wasn’t this good this soon in his career.
“It’s hard to keep finding adjectives for him,’’ Ventura said. “He’s great. The people whose names he’s grouped in with are some of the greatest pitchers who have ever played our game. He even swung the bat well tonight.’’
Sale had to overcome an anemic offense that made him work extra-hard to keep his team in the game.
The Sox loaded the bases with no outs in the second but didn’t score after Flowers struck out and Carlos Sanchez hit into a double play.
Conor Gillaspie and Flowers sandwiched singles around a strikeout by Alexei Ramirez (.212 average after going 0-for-5) to start the fourth, but Sanchez popped up and Sale grounded out, making first baseman Scruggs dive for a ball headed toward right field.
Abreu led off the eighth with a single and never moved.
Finally, Flowers homered off Miguel Socolovich with two outs. No win for Sale, but for once, a happy ending.
“It felt good,’’ Flowers said. “It felt good coming off the bat, it felt good running around the bases. After Sale put up another good performance it’s nice to get the win. You don’t want to waste those opportunities.’’
Too much of Sale’s greatest has been wasted as the Sox (33-42) own the second-worst record in the AL. They finished the month of June with a 10-16 record.