CHICAGO – Even when he is off his game, White Sox pitcher Chris Sale has found a way to deliver a win.
Poor command plagued Sale in his previous four starts, walking 12 batters in 241⁄3 innings, and he was headed down a similar path Saturday against Kansas City. Of the first 17 Royals hitters he faced, Sale fell behind 2-0 in the count five times and ran the count full four times.
However, Sale overcame his command issues and walked only one batter in the Sox’s 5-4 win to increase their lead to two games over the Detroit Tigers.
“He just kept trying to come back and have to throw something a little more over the plate than he would like,” manager Robin Ventura said. “But again, he did what he had to do. He really needs to get ahead, and I think that’s what he did later on.”
The win snapped the Sox’s six-game losing streak against the Royals (62-77). They have won 10 of their past 12 games at U.S. Cellular Field, important momentum with five games left on the homestand, including a four-game series against Detroit, which begins Monday.
The Sox (75-63) finally solved left-hander Bruce Chen (10-12), who had posted a 5-1 record against the South Siders over the past two years. Chen couldn’t overcome the long ball, serving up three home runs.
“We just got to win,” said catcher Tyler Flowers, who hit a two-run homer. “Doesn’t matter who it’s against, whatever it is, just have to try to win every day. They always seem to play us pretty tough. They play fundamental baseball and they take advantage of pitches, pretty much like every other team. We got a good win today and we’ve got to get another one tomorrow.”
Sale (16-6) continued his domination at home winning his eighth consecutive game, which sets up a showdown Thursday against the Tigers and their ace Justin Verlander. In his 12 home starts, Sale has surrendered three runs or less. He retired the final 10 batters he faced before Ventura turned to the bullpen.
Sale couldn’t explain his home-field success.
“It’s always nice pitching at home in front of your home crowd and being at home,” Sale said. “I don’t know. I couldn’t pinpoint anything exactly but it’s just kind of how it is.”
Considering the 2012 season marks his first as a starter, Sale’s role as the staff’s stopper is unexpected yet well earned. In his starts after a Sox loss, Sale is 9-3 with three no decisions, two of those losses coming against Detroit. It’s a position he undoubtedly will need to fill in the final month as questions surround the rotation.
“I want to take it a game at a time and just try to pitch each game like any other one,” Sale said. “Coming down the stretch they’re a little more important, but you go out there try to do too much and fall away from what you’re good at, that’s not what you need.”