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Sox’ Sale “looks mortal”, struggles in 11-8 loss to Braves

Chris Sale of the White Sox pitches against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning on Friday at U.S Cellular Field. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

Chris Sale insists he feels as good as he ever has heading into an All-Star break.

But a night when the White Sox ace gave up a career-high seven extra-base hits and a season-high eight runs might not be the best gauge to measure where Sale stands right now.

That made Friday night’s 11-8 loss to the Braves at U.S. Cellular Field even tougher to swallow for Sale.

“(It was) pretty embarrassing – it’s about as bad as I possibly think I’ve been in a while,” Sale said after allowing eight runs and 10 hits over five innings. “Stuff like this happens. You take the good with the bad, and this certainly was the bad.

“You just take it, you throw it away, you discard it. You almost don’t even notice that it happened.”

Even with Friday’s clunker, Sale (14-3) remains one of baseball’s best pitchers who will likely take on a starting role in next week’s All-Star Game. But as Sale quickly discovered, even the game’s best can experience a night like Friday.

The Braves methodically knocked Sale around for the five innings he lasted. Nick Markakis, former Sale Sox battery mate Tyler Flowers and Freddie Freeman all homered off of Sale, who also gave up four doubles – including three straight in the fifth inning when the Braves scored four runs.

“Tonight, he looked mortal,” manager Robin Ventura said. “I don’t think (Sale’s velocity) was as sharp and they got some good swings at him.

“It just looked like it wasn’t his best stuff.”

Even with a third-inning triple play thrown into the mix and plenty of run support, Sale didn’t have what it took to collect his 15th win.

Sox shortstop Tim Anderson turned in the defensive gem when he trapped a Freeman liner and tagged Chase d’Arnaud, who led off with a walk. Anderson stepped on second base to force out Gordon Beckham, who had singled and then threw out Freeman at first to complete the triple play.

The Sox became the first team since the 1979 Boston Red Sox and Oakland A’s to pull off three triple plays in a season. The Sox completed a unique 9-3-2-2-6-5 triple play April 22 against the Rangers before turning a more conventional triple play May 18 against the Astros.

“It was good to have his back on that play,” Anderson said. “It just happened at the right moment.”

Ventura agreed.

“(Sale) needed that,” Ventura said.

Even with eight runs that included home runs by Adam Eaton and Todd Frazier, who also had a sacrifice fly and a groundout that plated runs, Sale’s latest effort wasn’t enough.

Nights like Friday happen to the best of them, Sale admitted afterward. Yet, quickly as he will be to flush it, it was evident that the performance wasn’t setting well.

“(You) can’t hang your head over something like this, it happens to everybody,” Sale said. “You play this game long enough, it’s a very humbling game. Tonight’s one of those nights. Games like this sometimes make you appreciate the other ones. You just take it on the chin. It hurts, but you’ve got to get back up.”

Follow me on Twitter @JeffArnold_.