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Sale improves to 6-0 as White Sox gain series split with Orioles

Chris Sale delivers during the first inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Sunday, May 1, 2016, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

BALTIMORE – Aside from being a lot less economical with his pitches, Chris Sale picked up in May where he left off in April, leading the White Sox to a 7-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles and improving to 6-0 for the first time in his career.

The victory was an important one for the Sox, who salvaged a series split and completed a 5-2 road trip that began in Toronto.

Instead of flattening out at the end of a 19-game stretch without a break, the Sox (18-8) headed home for a welcome day off after going 13-6 during that stretch with eight wins in their last 10 games and 10 in their last 13. Their three-game lead in the American League Central going into May was the largest in franchise history, and they lead the division in May for the first time since 2008, their last playoff year.

“I guess we’re into May, but 6-0 doesn’t really mean anything,” Sale said. “We have one win and loss record that matters, and it’s not mine, that’s for darn sure. We just have to keep rolling.”

Sale, meanwhile, kept his ERA at a tidy 1.66 after allowing a run on five hits and season-high four walks. He struck out six but needed 112 pitches, not completing seven innings for the first time.

In his last four starts, he has allowed two earned runs over 29 1/3 innings for a 0.61 ERA in that span.

“I was erratic today,” Sale said. “I didn’t quite have my sharpness, walked a few too many guys, but when your team puts you in a position to succeed on a day like today, you’ve got to appreciate it.”

Second baseman Brett Lawrie homered for the third time in three games for the first time in his career, a two-out shot against right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez in the fourth inning for the Sox’ first run. Lawrie also singled, doubled and walked, raising his average to .290.

“Ubaldo is a tough guy, he’s a tough pitcher out there, and he was cruising, and a 1-2 count, a homer dead center,” Sale said. “The ball really wasn’t flying today either. He’s the guy who gets it started, he’s the guy who keeps the energy going.”

Melky Cabrera also had three hits, and Jose Abreu and Austin Jackson had two each for the Sox.

Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera head to the dugout after scoring off a hit by Jerry Sands in the  fifth inning Sunday. (Getty Images)

Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera head to the dugout after scoring off a hit by Jerry Sands in the fifth inning Sunday. (Getty Images)

“You start to seeing some guys’ averages creeping up a little bit,” manager Robin Ventura said. “[Abreu] he’s creeping up there, [Todd] Frazier had some big ones. It’s just nice to see the offense get going a little bit.”

After he was reinstated from the bereavement list for the passing of his father in law, closer David Robertson got his first work in after three days off by pitching the ninth in a non-save situation. Jake Petricka, although allowing an inherited runner of Sale’s to score, Matt Albers, Zach Duke and Robertson combined on 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.

Zach Duke pitches in the seventh inning against the Baltimore Orioles. The Sox bullpen lowered its ERA to 1.60, best in the major leagues. (Getty Images)

Zach Duke pitches in the seventh inning Sunday. The Sox bullpen lowered its ERA to 1.60, best in the major leagues. (Getty Images)

NOTE: After grazing Adam Eaton with a pitch that dropped him on his back in the fifth inning, Jimenez hit Frazier on the left hand. Frazier stayed in the game after a visit from trainer Herm Schneider.