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Chris Sale pitching like an All-Star; White Sox wallop Astros

Chris Sale pitched eight scoreless innings struck out seven Astros Saturday. He gave up four singles no walks. | Scott

Chris Sale pitched eight scoreless innings and struck out seven Astros on Saturday. He gave up four singles and no walks. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 11, 2012 10:36AM



Only Chris Sale thinks it’s too early to talk about his All-Star status, perhaps even as the American League’s starter July 10 in Kansas City.

‘‘You always think about those things as a kid, but we have a ways to go before any of those things,’’ the White Sox’ budding ace said Saturday.

His teammates and the rest of baseball are better judges.

‘‘He’s been outstanding all year long,’’ said Adam Dunn, whose grand slam in the eighth inning off reliever Rhiner Cruz was icing on the 10-1 victory over the Houston Astros. ‘‘Obviously when he’s on the mound, we have all the confidence in the world. We know if we score a few runs for him, normally it’s going to be good enough.’’

Sale extended his scoreless-innings streak to 15 and improved his record to 8-2 while lowering his league-leading ERA to 2.05.

In his last five starts, Sale is 5-0 with an ERA of 0.98 and 43 strikeouts.

As important to the team, six of Sale’s victories have come after losses.

‘‘He has a lot of that [stopper] ability,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. ‘‘From what he did last year [in the bullpen] to this, he’s not just a thrower. He’s a pitcher.’’

The Astros managed only four singles against him as Sale, 23, worked through eight innings without issuing a walk. The Astros’ lone run came when Jed Lowrie homered off Zach Stewart in the ninth.

‘‘Bouncing back after a loss is always important,’’ Sale said. ‘‘You don’t want to go into a skid. That’s the goal in every game I start — give your team a chance to win and don’t go into the bullpen too early.’’

The Sox had 16 singles to go with Dunn’s grand slam.

‘‘[Dunn] had a big day at the plate, and that’s awesome,’’ Sale said. ‘‘It was just a well-played ballgame. It’s always exciting being in those games.’’

Sale has been a catalyst ever since he pushed to stay in the rotation after the Sox toyed last month with moving him back to the bullpen as a closer because of fears about soreness in his elbow.

‘‘It was kind of crazy there [last month],’’ Sale said. ‘‘I’m glad everything got figured out.

‘‘It’s been awesome trying to learn from every outing — good, bad or indifferent — and move forward, try to build some momentum. I needed to focus this year on efficiency, throwing strike one and keep pounding the zone. That’s probably the main part about pitching — finding your tempo and finding a groove and getting a feel for the strike zone.’’

Pitching coach Don Cooper already sees that in Sale.

‘‘He’s got it all,’’ Cooper said. ‘‘Someone asked if you need more from him. No, we don’t need more. Close to what [he’s] doing would be par for the course.

‘‘We’re watching him as we go. Believe me, everything we can do to keep him healthy and strong [to] keep going out there and do what he’s doing, it’s getting taken care of.

‘‘Listen, he was one of the [toughest] lefty relievers in the league. Now we’re trying to give him a chance to be one of the top-flight starters. He’s on his way.’’



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