CHICAGO – Any pitcher would love to perform the way Chris Sale has over his last 10 starts. With eight quality starts, a 2.84 ERA, 88 strikeouts and just 16 walks, Sale has been nothing short of dominant.
But with only 16 runs of support during that span, Sale has just one win to show for it.
“I mean, just gotta stay on the positive,” Sale said. “Can’t get down on yourself or anyone else. Just keep grinding it out and things will turn around.”
Manager Robin Ventura knows there’s not much more his ace can do, and admits it’s a struggle to figure out what to say to Sale on nights like Saturday.
“It's not easy to try and explain it to him,” Ventura said. “But he's learned a tough lesson and part of baseball. He pitched great tonight, there's no question about it. You can't be perfect, but he's pretty dang close.”
Sale’s only in his second year as a starter, but already he’s experiencing a stretch of bad luck that many starting pitchers never have to face in their careers.
“If there’s anything I can take out of it – it’s not a good thing – but there’s positives you can take out of it,” Sale said. “Baseball’s a crazy sport. Sports in general are crazy. Different things happen on different years; this just happens to be a different year. Stay on it, keep your head up and keep grinding it out.”
Sale emphasized those positives: He and his teammates give 100 percent every time they step on the field, they don’t shy away from any opponent and they never give up.
That never-quit attitude nearly paid off for the White Sox in the ninth, when they managed to get runners on first and third with only one out. Jeff Keppinger lined a ball to right that looked destined to fall in front of David Lough and Alex Rios bolted for home. However, Lough made a spectacular diving play, got up and immediately threw home, and Rios was unable to tag up and score.
It’s usually customary for a man on third with less than two outs to wait for a ball to drop before heading home, but both Rios and Ventura believed it likely wouldn’t have made a difference.
"To tell you the truth, I don't think there's much I could have done,” Rios said. “That was a hell of a play and even if I tagged up I don't think I had a chance at home. It's a tough play for us."
Ventura echoed Rios’ sentiments.
“I think if Rios goes back and the guy short hops it he might be able to have a shot at him too,” Ventura said. “You'd like to see him tag but then again, the guy made a great play. That's part of it.”
At the very least, the run would have extended the game and kept Sale from undeservingly picking up his 10th loss of the season. Despite the fact that his numbers are as good as any pitcher in baseball, Sale, as he has throughout this dry spell, refused to blame his offense. Instead, he focused on the fact that this experience has brought him closer to his teammates.
“That’s what this mainly is about, being professional, being a good teammate and playing hard every day,” Sale said. “I can honestly say there were 24 guys in here and a coaching staff that wanted those runs more than I did. I truly believe that. It’s just kind of the way the ball falls sometimes. It’s tough, yeah, but at the end of the day you gotta stay on it and keep your head up.”