You’d be hard-pressed to find a more popular former White Sox than Mark Buehrle.
There is no current Sox star admired, appreciated and embraced more than Chris Sale, who at 26 is becoming the face of the franchise.
The two met at U.S. Cellular Field on Monday night, Sale, 26, going for a record ninth consecutive game with 10 or more strikeouts, and Buehrle, 36 and, still going strong in pursuit of his 10th victory.
Sale did not get the record but he pitched a complete game in a 4-2 White Sox victory, holding the Jays to a pair of runs on solo homers and waiting for the Sox to erupt with three runs against Buehrle in the eighth inning after two outs.
Gordon Beckham reached on a error by shortstop Jose Reyes to open the eighth and scored on Jose Abreu’s two-out single. Melky Cabrera doubled down the left field line, scoring Adam Eaton (single) and Abreu to make it 4-2.
Sale (7-4) finished it off, working out of trouble after giving up an infield single and another that went off third baseman Gordon Beckham’s glove, getting an game-ending double-play grounder to short from Danny Velencia on his 108th pitch. With both Sale and Buehrle working briskly, this game was over in one hour, 54 minutes.
Sale pitched nine innings, allowing two runs on six hits and no walks while striking out six. Josh Donaldson hit his 20th homer and Chris Colabello his eighth for the Jays’ runs.
All four Sox runs were unearned against Buehrle, who struck out two and walked none while allowing nine hits.
When Buehrle, starting his warmups up first as the visiting pitcher, made his away across the right-field grass toward the bullpen, he received a rousing round of applause from the first phase of the 24,593 paid crowd that were in the building.
When Sale, who had been named to the All-Star team made his way to the Sox pen beyond the left-field fence, the roar was bigger, yet not as big as the one he got on his way back.
Sox fans have a reservoir full of unused cheers for a team that is 37-43 after one of the more anticipated nights at the Cell. A Sale night has become something of an event. With four Sox wins in the last five games and Buehrle going, too, there was a buzz about the place that has been largely absent this year.
The matchup was made possible when the Sox pushed Sale back a day to allow some welcome rest. While tearing through opponents with double-digit strikeout games in nine of his last 10 starts, Sale has thrown 110 or more pitches in his last 11 starts.
“Early on, yanking a couple pitches and the velocity was a little higher than we’re accustomed to,” catcher Tyler Flowers said.
“There was a point in my head where it seemed like it would be tough to do and the pitches they were swinging at early in counts, the game plan shifted to ‘let’s be efficient, let’s let them hit it, trust our defense and see if we can go a complete game.”
Eaton said it was nice, for a change, for the hitters to pick up Sale.
“A big night for Chris. He didn’t get the 10 but to be down 2-1 in the eighth and for us as hitters to pick us up,” Eaton said. “He’s picked this team up day after day, year after year. For us to pick us when he knows he’s not going to get his 10 it does a lot for the psyche of this team.”