Chris Sale nearly perfect in return vs. Yankees; White Sox win 3-2
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Staff Reporter May 22, 2014 9:20PM
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Updated: May 22, 2014 11:36PM
There was nothing wrong with Chris Sale’s prized left arm Thursday night. Making his first start in five weeks, the two-time All-Star dominated the New York Yankees for six innings in the White Sox’ 3-2 victory at U.S. Cellular Field.
Sale flirted with a perfect game that wasn’t going to happen because of a pitch-count limit in his first start since coming off the disabled list with a flexor muscle strain, setting down the first 17 Yankees before No. 9 hitter Zoilo Almonte singled to center with two outs in the sixth.
Zach Putnam, who replaced Sale to start the seventh protecting a 2-0 lead, already was warming up even though Sale had struck out 10 and, until Almonte’s single, allowed one ball hit out of the infield. Sale (4-0) walked none and fanned 10 while lowering his ERA to 1.89. He needed 86 pitches to notch double-digit strikeouts for the 12th time in his career, tying Alex Fernandez for fourth-highest for a Sox pitcher. Sale is in his third season as a starter.
Sale, who threw 68 pitches in his only minor-league rehab start for Class AAA Charlotte against the Durham Bulls on Friday (he struck out 11 in four innings), has felt well enough to pitch for a week or more, “but we’ve played it fairly safe,’’ general manager Rick Hahn said before the game. “He’s been asymptomatic for an extended period of time.’’
A second rehab outing was considered but deemed unnecessary. Sale proved why against the Yankees, striking out the side in the first and third innings and striking out eight of the first 11 batters he faced — including Jacoby Ellsbury and Derek Jeter twice. When Sale struck out the side in the third, Brendan Ryan threw his bat at a pitch and Almonte’s helmet fell off swinging at another.
“I felt really good after the second or third bullpen session [after he went on the DL],’’ Sale said Wednesday, “even before that live [batting practice], but, like I said, this was something that was very well thought out, very well planned, and we were just erring on the side of caution in terms of making sure when [Thursday] comes, I’m 100 percent, not just saying I’m 100 percent but actually being 100 percent.’’
The Sox scored a run in the second against Yankees right-hander David Phelps. With two outs, designated hitter Paul Konerko doubled to right-center field, and Alejandro De Aza dropped a fly ball near the left-field line that bounced into the seats for a ground-rule double to score Konerko.
After catcher Tyler Flowers walked, Adam Eaton singled for the second time in two innings to score De Aza and give Sale a 2-0 lead.
Sale was dominant, but Phelps (1-1) wasn’t bad himself, allowing one more hit — a single by Alexei Ramirez in the fourth — after Eaton’s single and finishing with eight strikeouts and one walk over seven innings.
Putnam pitched a perfect seventh, including a strikeout of Alfonso Soriano, and Daniel Webb pitched a perfect eighth for the Sox.
Ronald Belisario, who has taken over for the injured Matt Lindstrom as the Sox’ closer, picked up his second save despite giving up a two-run single to Mark Teixeira with two outs in the ninth to make it 3-2. Soriano struck out looking to end the game.