By nearly every measure, White Sox left-hander Chris Sale shined in his performance Friday.
Sale stymied Seattle for his fifth complete game, which leads the majors. He registered 14 strikeouts, one shy of his career high. He issued zero walks for the fifth time this season.
Yet the fiery southpaw fell short in the only category that really mattered to him. He absorbed the loss as the Sox lost, 3-1, to Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners.
So much for those other statistics.
“I guess it looks good on paper,” Sale said in a quiet locker room after the game. “You want to come out on top in a game like that, no doubt. It was a grind from the first pitch. It just didn’t fall our way.”
A pair of blunders on the basepaths did little to help the Sox’ cause. Todd Frazier and J.B. Shuck were caught in rundowns in back-to-back innings to help Hernandez escape jams and keep his pitch count low.
Frazier homered in the seventh inning to cut the deficit to two runs, but the Sox could not overcome their early miscues. In the eighth inning, Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu squandered a bases-loaded opportunity as they each failed to hit the ball out of the infield.
“We didn’t run the bases very well tonight,” Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “That ends up costing you. You’re getting something going against them, and it just takes the wind out of your sails.”
Sale (15-7) allowed one run apiece in the second, third and fourth innings before finding his groove. He retired 16 consecutive batters to finish the game with 120 pitches. He struck out the side in the sixth and seventh innings for a half-dozen strikeouts in a row.
“After the fourth, I found a good cruising speed,” Sale said. “I had good tempo. I felt really good with my arm slot. Everything was working really well.
“Omar (Narvaez) back there was really in sync tonight. Him and I were going back and forth, even between innings in the dugout. He got me through that one pretty good tonight.”
Narvaez caught Sale for only the second time in his career. The rookie backstop said he felt comfortable to meet with the five-time All-Star before the game to discuss how to approach each hitter.
“He’s a great guy,” Narvaez said. “He’s one of those guys, you can talk to him any time. He’s an amazing pitcher. He has a lot of confidence, and that’s pretty much everything. The confidence he has on the mound, you can see it from everywhere.”
Sale maintained his trend of outstanding performances on five days’ rest. He is 10-5 with a 2.85 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 129 to 22 when pitching with at least one extra day off between starts. Meanwhile, on four days’ rest, he is 5-2 with a 3.86 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 50 to 16.
“We’ve just noticed when he gets that extra day, he’s got a little more life to it,” Ventura said. “He can go out there a little bit longer. He’s crisper.”
The advantage is not only physical.
“It’s mental, too,” Ventura said. “He knows in his head that he’s got the extra day and there’s a day in between there somewhere where it becomes a little bit easier for him. There’s never been a question about that. He’s always better when he gets one extra day.”
On Friday, he happened to face the Mariners’ best pitcher.
“If I wasn’t pitching tonight, I would have been watching every pitch,” Sale said. “He’s special. His nickname is the ‘King.’ That doesn’t fall on too many people.”