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Chris Sale strikes out 15 in White Sox win

ST. PETERSBURG FL - MAY 28:  Pitcher Chris Sale #49 Chicago White Sox starts against TampBay Rays May 28

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 28: Pitcher Chris Sale #49 of the Chicago White Sox starts against the Tampa Bay Rays May 28, 2012 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

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Updated: July 3, 2012 12:10PM

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Left-hander Chris Sale made a memory on a historic Memorial Day at a place where his other great memory was attending his first major-league game.

Sale struck out a Tropicana Field-record 15 Rays in 71/3 innings Monday, falling one short of Jack Harshman’s franchise record set in 1954, as the White Sox edged the Rays 2-1 for their sixth consecutive victory and 10th in their last 11.

In a duel of young left-handers with big major-league futures, Sale made Matt Moore’s 10-strikeout performance — marred only by Adam Dunn’s two-run homer in the sixth — almost look ordinary.

“It’s a special day, especially growing up, kind of being a Tampa Bay Rays fan,’’ said Sale, a Lakeland native who had a sizable and vocal cheering section of family and friends among the 22,227 in attendance. “My uncle took me to my first game here a day after my birthday. It was fun coming to Florida.’’

There was nothing fun about facing Sale (6-2, 2.34 ERA), whose slider was better than usual.

“I don’t know what it was like facing Randy Johnson when he was young, but this kid has got great stuff,” said Rays right fielder Ben Zobrist, who had two of the three hits against Sale.

Eleven of Sale’s strikeouts were on sliders. He had 11 K’s on swings.

“That was the slider he had last year coming out of the pen, and he had been struggling with it this year,’’ catcher A.J. Pierzynski said.

At 23, Sale became the youngest pitcher to strike out 15 since the Cubs’ Mark Prior had 16 against the Brewers on June 26, 2003.

Sale’s pitch count, a topic of conversation after he missed a start with a tender elbow, was 115. It wasn’t an issue with manager Robin Ventura, who pulled him for Jesse Crain after Rich Thompson grounded out to open the eighth. That was Sale’s last chance to tie Harshman’s record.

“He’s probably going to have another chance someday,’’ Ventura said.

“I talked to [Jake] Peavy in the seventh,’’ Sale said, ‘‘and he goes, ‘Hey, pitch count is up there. Leave it all out there, leave it all out there.’ I felt I did that today.’’

Sale will make his next start Sunday against Seattle with an extra day of rest because of the day off Thursday.

His only blemish was arguing a call at second base after he picked off Zobrist at first. Zobrist beat Dunn’s throw to second.

“I was just an absolute idiot right there,’’ Sale said. “That’s not who I am or what I do.’’

Between Sale and Moore, 22, the duel featured all sorts of historic significance.

According to Elias, the last time opposing starters 23 or younger combined for 25 strikeouts was July 31, 1901, when the Cubs’ Tom Hughes had 15 and Cincinnati’s Noodles Hahn had 11 in a 14-inning game. The last time opposing starters 23 or younger each had 10-plus K’s was July 21, 1971, when the Indians’ Steve Dunning had 10 and the A’s Vida Blue had 11 in a 12-inning game.

The last time two lefties struck out 10 or more in a game was Sept. 16, 1992, when the Mariners’ Johnson fanned 15 and the Angels’ Mark Langston had 12 (10 innings).

And the last time a pitcher had 15 or more strikeouts within his first 10 starts was Cub Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game against the Astros in 1998.

“It was great,’’ Ventura said. “You look at where he’s come from [in his first year as a starter] … he’s special.’’

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