PHILADELPHIA — Even Chris Sale is susceptible to a dud, although the White Sox ace left-hander has had fewer than most during his five All-Star seasons as a starting pitcher.
Sale’s four-inning outing in the Phillies 8-3 victory Wednesday night – his second shortest of the season – followed six starts in a row of eight innings or more and could not have come at a worse time as he makes a final push for his first Cy Young Award after finishing in the top six in voting the last four seasons.
Sale, who could boast the best five-season resume of any American League Cy Young candidate, had his 2016 ledger dinged with six runs allowed on seven hits. Included in the barrage by the Phillies, who have the worst offense in baseball, was a two-run double by Cameron Rupp in the first, a home run by Tommy Joseph in the Phillies’ three-run third and an RBI triple by Roman Quinn in the fourth, on which Sale failed to back up third.
“Bad night all the way around,’’ said a Sale, who, speaking an hour and a half after his night was over, hadn’t cooled down after what was the Sox’ fifth straight loss on a 1-5 road trip. “Gave up too many runs. Got hit around, left the ball over the plate and … stunk.’’
Sale struck out five and did not walk a batter, but he also hit three batters. For support, the Sox produced three homers but all were solo shots. Adam Eaton (14th) went deep leading off the game and Todd Frazier (38th) and Alex Avila (seventh) hit-back-to-back homers against Jerad Eickhoff in the seventh.
The Sox dropped to 72-80 Sale’s record fell to 16-9 while hiking his ERA from 3.03 to 3.23. After going from second in the AL in ERA being Masahiro Tanaka (2.97) to eighth behind Rick Porcello, Corey Kluber, Aaron Sanchez, Danny Duffy and Justin Verlander, he’ll have one or two starts left to whittle it down again. Sale did reach a career high for innings pitched in a season (214 2/3), and it’s possible he’s beginning to tire on a recent heavy workload he has welcomed.
“It could be,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. “I don’t think that goes with the command part of it [which eluded Sale, Ventura said], but it could be with a little velocity.’’
“No. Just sucked,’’ Sale said. “Everyone is entitled to have a bad night and tonight was mine, unfortunately. I was just god-awful tonight.’’
Before the game, Ventura said Sale, whom one oddsmaker on Wednesday listed him as a slight favorite over Kluber to win the Cy Young, belonged “at the top of the Cy Young.”
“I’m partial because I see him all the time,’’ Ventura said. “I see what he does. Regardless of where we’re at record-wise, I realize how important he is.’’
But Sale, as usual, steered clear of Cy Young discussion.
“I don’t play for stuff like that,’’ he said. “I’m here to win games. Not to win any trophies or whatever else. I want to win games and I wanted to win tonight.’’
Sale, like Abreu, has grown weary of playing for a losing team year in and year out. Given a chance to weigh in on Jose Abreu’s comments after an 8-3 loss to the Royals in Kansas City Monday – Abreu said the Royals have more desire than the Sox — Sale said “I’m going to keep it to what happened tonight on the field. Bad night. Frustrating. Wish I could have been better. I wasn’t. It would have been nice to sneak out of [Philadelphia] with a win [in the two-game set] but I didn’t give them a chance from the first pitch.’’
Sale could make two more starts, including the last game of the season next Sunday against the Twins at home
“Yeah whatever they got for me,’’ he said. “I go when my name is called. However many that is I’ll show up for them.’’