Sale, Abreu have White Sox prepared to contend quicker
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Staff Reporter July 26, 2014 10:32PM
Updated: August 28, 2014 7:00AM
MINNEAPOLIS — The more Chris Sale keeps doing the marvelous things he’s doing at 25 and the more Jose Abreu does his thing at 27, the more you wonder whether White Sox general manager Rick Hahn should consider moving his rebuilding plan along a bit faster.
The Sox’ strategy for long-term success that began during their 99-loss debacle last season pegged 2015 or 2016 as the time to contend. With Sale, who improved to 10-1 and lowered his ERA to 1.88 by striking out 12 Minnesota Twins in eight innings in a 7-0 victory Saturday, and Abreu, the major-league home-run leader who drove in his 78th run with a sacrifice fly and extended his hitting streak to 16 games, the Sox have a Cy Young-caliber pitcher and an MVP-grade slugger.
Abreu has been even better than advertised, and there’s a growing sentiment among players and coaches that it would be a waste of Abreu’s and Sale’s talents to give up on a season like this one.
In other words, put more around them to lift the Sox from the bottom third of the American League standings. Maybe they aren’t that far away.
‘‘[Outfielder] Avisail [Garcia] is not playing yet,’’ Sale said. ‘‘It’s pretty scary to think where we could be. We’ve got all the right pieces in all the right places. It’s just a matter of stringing some wins together. Obviously, we’re all very comfortable with each other and we have confidence in each other to produce and win games. Hopefully it’s sooner rather than later that we get into the playoffs and make a push.’’
The Sox (51-54) have strung three victories together against the last-place team in the AL Central and will go for four-game sweep Sunday. A reality check might be in store after that, with the Sox visiting the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers for three games.
But here are some unreal numbers: A night after Abreu reached 30 career homers faster than anyone in history besides Rudy York and Mark McGwire, Sale notched 10 strikeouts or more for the 15th time in his career, tying him with Juan Pizarro for the second-most in Sox history. Ed Walsh, who pitched for the Sox from 1904 to 1916, owns the club record with 17 games of double-digit strikeouts.
Want some perspective on how good Sale has been this early in his career? Walsh made 312 starts for the Sox and Pizarro 145. Sale has made only 75.
‘‘He’s a really good pitcher, and it gets proven every time he goes out there that he’s one of the best pitchers in the league,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. ‘‘This was a great performance. It was quick, too. He seemed to have everything, and he was working fast. I think it was the fastest I’ve seen him work.’’
Kind of like Mark Buehrle, the last Sox pitcher — in 2005 — to win 10 of his first 11 decisions.
‘‘That stuff is cool to talk about in the offseason and for your family and friends to talk about,’’ Sale said of the comparisons. ‘‘I try to stay focused on what we have ahead. All that stuff is for you guys to write about and talk about. I have a team here that needs me to help them win. That’s my job.’’
Alexei Ramirez homered for the second time in two nights, hitting the netting on the left-field pole for a two-run shot against first-time starter Logan Darnell.
The Sox got 14 hits a night after getting 17. Ramirez has hit safely in his last eight games, and Tyler Flowers (RBI single, RBI double) has hit safely in seven of his last eight.