Chris Sale settles down, gets ‘W’ for Sox
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org April 25, 2013 11:07PM
Updated: April 25, 2013 11:47PM
Hector Santiago was awed watching Chris Sale pitch at Class A Winston-Salem in 2010. Touching 100 mph with a fastball has that effect on people -- even pitchers.
Three years later, Santiago is still awed by his fellow left-hander, but for different reasons.
“When he was in high A with me when he first came in [after getting drafted by the White Sox in the first round] he had good stuff but he nibbled,’’ Santiago said before Sale pitched seven innings in the Sox’ 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night at U.S. Cellular Field. “Now he attacks with every guy. It seems like he’s 1-2, 0-2 every guy. It’s amazing that he can do it every time he goes out there and be ahead of everybody.’’
Well, not quite every time out. In a rare display of wildness, Sale (2-2) matched a career high with four walks – through the first 11 batters he faced -- before getting back on track. Santiago may have been watching from the bullpen thinking he had jinxed Sale.
“There are days I go out there and throw nine pitches, one for a strike,’’ Santiago said. “Sometimes you get outs on swings or chases but he’s doing it every day, all the time.’’
Thursday’s outing aside, Sale is a strike thrower with a 333-98 strikeout-to-walks ratio during his career. After issuing his fourth walk, Sale settled in, facing two batters above the minimum through the seventh. Jose Lobaton’s first home run was one of four Rays hits. Sale struck out seven.
“It’s not one of those you’re used to but he righted the ship and he’s a good enough pitcher to battle through it and get you what you need,’’ manager Robin Ventura said.
Protecting a 3-2 lead in the fifth, Sale’s 1-2-3 inning featured a strikeout of Desmond Jennings, a bullet throw from the third-base line to first baseman Paul Konerko on a chopper to get Ryan Roberts, and a 95-mph strikeout pitch past Ben Zobrist.
Sale’s average fastball velocity has dropped from 94-95 his first year in 2011 to about 91 now. Santiago has watched Sale get slightly slower and significantly better.
“Before, we would see him on the gun at 97, 99, even 100,’’ Santiago said. “Now he’s like 91 and 92, sink it and run it, sink it, sink it, and if he needs more he gets it up to 95. He’s definitely more of a pitcher.
“He gets in that count where he can put some more on it and blow it by people. Then he runs it away and sinks it, gets his double play, works ahead, gets his early outs. It’s kind of fun to watch because he does it all the time.’’
Sale’s leadoff walk to Jennings in the first and a poor decision by second baseman Jeff Keppinger on a ground ball by Roberts put Jennings on second. He scored on Evan Longoria’s single.
The Sox’ three runs in the first against right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (1-2) was their highest output in an inning without a home run. Doubles by Alejandro De Aza and Keppinger (2-for-4, RBI, run), a walk to Alex Rios (two walks), and RBI single by Paul Konerko and a sacrifice fly by Conor Gillaspie produced the three-spot.
They waited till the sixth to score via the homer when Adam Dunn, who had shown some signs of life with three walks Wednesday and two hard-hit outs his first at-bats Thursday, homered with Rios (walk) on to give Sale a 5-2 lead. Dunn, who was 2-for-46 going in, has four homers, all at home.
Matt Lindstrom pitched a perfect eighth and Addison Reed a scoreless ninth for his seventh save in as many chances.
The Sox (10-12) go for a season-high third straight win against the Rays Friday.