In the battle of American League Central pitching aces, White Sox lefty Chris Sale got the upper hand Monday against Detroit’s Max Scherzer.
Even Tigers manager Jim Leyland admitted Sale (11-12) had some of the best stuff he’d seen thrown against his division-leading team all season—even though Leyland had to watch from his office after getting ejected in the first inning.
Leyland was defending his star player, Miguel Cabrera, who was tossed first by home plate umpire Brian Gorman for objecting to a strike call on a Sale pitch Cabrera thought hit him.
Only two batters into the game, the tide turned in the Sox favor toward their 5-1 victory.
“The guy is the best hitter in the game, so it does change the dynamics,’’ Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “But the way Chris was pitching, I would hope it wouldn’t have changed things.’’
Sale was never in trouble, working eight innings and giving up only four hits, one of them a Victor Martinez homer in the seventh.
“I was trying to pound the zone and make quality pitches,’’ said Sale, who became the fast pitcher in franchise history to reach 200 strikeouts when he struck out Austin Jackson in the third. “That’s a good team, and you try to take advantage when you can.’’
And not having MVP candidate in the lineup was an advantage.
“The best hitter on the planet leaving in the first helps,’’ Sale said with a smile.
But every Tiger was having trouble with Sale, who struck out eight and walked only one.
Scherzer, meanwhile, had trouble with the Sox as he has in the past.
The leading AL Cy Young candidate was trying for his 20th victory, instead falling to 19-3 in his shortest outing since last October.
He worked only four innings in his second loss in his last three starts, giving up two runs in the first and three in the fourth, one of them unearned.
“We were patient,’’ Ventura said of his hitters, who drew two walks, one of them turning into one of the first inning runs driven in by Paul Konerko. “As much as we didn’t score for Chris early in the season, I’m sure it was a nice change for him.’’
Sale is the only Sox starter to throw at least eight innings in a game in the last 19 games, and he improved to 2-1 with a 2.27 ERA and 33 strikeouts in four starts against the Tigers.
“I put a lot of emphasis on September,’’ Sale said of now going 5-1 in his last six decisions. “It’s something Coop [pitching coach Don Cooper] and I have talked about and how the last month of the season you want to finish strong.’’
Ventura said Sale has been at his best in the last six weeks.
“This is as well as I’ve seen him pitch this year as far as being easy and controlling his emotions on the mound. It’s a progression of someone going into his second year as a starter. He looks great.
“It’s valuable as we move forward, even for his future and our future, to have that kind of velocity late in the season and going through a lineup like that. It’s a positive for us moving forward.’’