By David Just — For the Sun-Times
White Sox ace Chris Sale broke out of his six-start funk Saturday by tossing eight scoreless innings in a 6-2 victory against the Oakland Athletics at U.S. Cellular Field.
Sale, normally someone for Sox fans to look forward to every five days during losing seasons, hadn’t won a game since July 2. The Sox went 16-24 in the stretch between Sale’s 14th and 15th victories, and he was 0-4 with a 4.43 ERA during that span.
But all was right again against the A’s. Sale allowed three hits and three walks and struck out eight in his eight innings.
‘‘It was kind of getting over the hump for me,’’ Sale said. ‘‘My last few times out, I haven’t been as good as I’ve wanted to be or as good as I’ve needed to be. Coming in and getting this one after a loss [Friday], we’ll fight for this series [Sunday], so it was important.’’
Sale (15-6) worked his way out of an early jam. The A’s put two runners on in the first before a double play ended the threat. They made hard outs through the first three innings, and Sale had more walks than strikeouts to that point.
But the rest of the game was a textbook Sale gem. He allowed only one hit in his last five innings and struck out five consecutive batters between the sixth and eighth.
‘‘He was great all night,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. ‘‘He just was in control. First inning, got a big double-play ball. After that, he just seemed to kind of maneuver his way through it. It was good stuff.’’
After a spectacular first half that culminated in his starting the All-Star Game for the American League, Sale has had a much different second half. In addition to his struggles on the mound, Sale was sent home and suspended five games for cutting up the team’s 1976 throwback jerseys July 23.
He made three consecutive quality starts after returning from his suspension but didn’t earn a victory in any of them.
Sale said he has made a few
adjustments to his routine during the last six weeks, but ‘‘nothing drastic.’’
‘‘We moved some stuff around, and we’ve done some stuff,’’ Sale said. ‘‘Just little modifications here and there in my side sessions.’’
Sale was the beneficiary of the Sox’ early offensive outburst. They had six runs and 10 hits in the first four innings and scored at least one run in each of those innings.
But Sale’s handiwork was nearly undone by the bullpen in the ninth. Nate Jones came on with a 6-0 lead and gave up a home run to Danny Valencia on his second pitch. Three more batters reached against Jones, who was booed on his way back to the dugout and replaced by closer David Robertson with one out.
With two on, two outs and the tying run on deck, Robertson gave up a long fly ball to Chad Pinder, who was making his major-league debut. Center fielder Adam Eaton chased down Pinder’s blast at the warning track to end the game.
‘‘In baseball, you see that the tying run usually comes on deck,’’ Ventura said. ‘‘We do it whether
it’s 2-1 or 6-0. But, yeah, it seems like we have nerve-racking games all the time.
‘‘Robby came in and picked Nate up. Nate’s been doing it for us all year, and he’ll continue to do that. He’s allowed to have rough one now and again.’’
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