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Sale pitched better, but not quite an ace yet

Sun-Times sportswriter Daryl Van Schouwen. January 27 2012 | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

Sun-Times sportswriter Daryl Van Schouwen. January 27, 2012 | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 19, 2013 12:40PM

TORONTO — These were the moments Chris Sale worked hard for after the White Sox made him a first-round draft pick in 2010.

This was the stage he bargained for when his agent negotiated the $32.5 million contract extension he signed during spring training.

He had yearned to be a staff ace, pitching in games against stars 14 years his elder, such as R.A. Dickey, whom the 24-year-old Sale went up against with the task of giving his team a series win on the road and sending it home with a 4-6 record on a trip that had begun horribly with five consecutive losses.

Coming off the worst start of his young career in Cleveland, Sale pitched to settle a personal score Thursday and threw much better, but the Toronto Blue Jays ran him out of the Rogers Centre to hand the Sox a 3-1 loss, reminding the budding star there is more to reaching the top than a great slider and fastball command.

‘‘I’ll want to take something from this,’’ said Sale, who gave up three runs (two earned) and four hits over seven innings but saw his record fall to 1-2 — and the Sox’ record on the trip to 3-7. ‘‘I have to pay closer attention to runners. They had free reign out there, it seemed like, especially in the first. I have to take something from that and move forward.’’

Sale’s problems defending the running game led to the Blue Jays’ first two runs. Leadoff man Rajai Davis singled in the first, stole second on a strikeout pitch to Melky Cabrera, and on Sale’s first pitch to J.P. Arencibia, Davis stole third even though Jeff Keppinger was straddling second base.

‘‘You just have to keep them close enough and check them,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. ‘‘You can’t let them have any momentum going towards the next base.’’

Sale struck out Arencibia and would strike out the side, but not before Edwin Encarnacion singled Davis home with two outs.

In the fifth, Sale hit Emilio Bonifacio in the back leg leading off, then made a wild pickoff attempt, allowing Bonifacio — who was leaning toward second — to go from first to third.

‘‘I’d like to think I had him picked off,’’ Sale said, calling his error ‘‘stupid.’’

Bonifacio scored on a chopper by Munenori Kawasaki that Dunn, playing in, misplayed on his back hand for an error.

Davis came up next and doubled to the left-center field wall, scoring Kawasaki to make it 3-0.

‘‘I had a little better stuff than my previous outing,’’ Sale said. ‘‘Location was good for the most part, but some things happened. We could have saved us a run right there [with the pickoff] and build momentum on that and make it a little bit tighter.’’

Dickey (2-2) left after pitching six scoreless innings with neck and back tightness. He allowed two hits, one walk and struck out seven.

Sale was hard on himself after the loss, as he always is. That’s what Ventura likes about him — his desire to be the staff ace.

‘‘His drive,’’ Ventura said. ‘‘He cares about the guys he plays with and wants to be that guy. Some people don’t want to be that guy. He wants to be that guy.

‘‘Some guys invite that in and are challenged by it, and some guys aren’t. He’s challenged by it and wants to be that guy.’’

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