Chris Sale focused on sprint to finish

CHICAGO -– When it comes to channeling energy in an efficient direction, Chicago White Sox starter Chris Sale often has been a work in progress.

Consider Wednesday’s start against the Houston Astros another lesson learned.

One start after he was flustered by the Texas Rangers and ended his night with a glove-slamming outburst in the dugout, the staff's ace made sure he had the proper frame of mind.

Of course things were much simpler, since he was facing the lowly Astros instead of the first-place Rangers, but he seemed to have a different focus about him from the outset.

Sale struck out the side in the first inning and went on to fan 12 Astros in a 6-1 White Sox victory, the team’s 10th in its last 12 games. The White Sox also won their fifth consecutive series after suffering through a 10-game losing streak that ended at the start of the month.

“Any time you lose, and quite honestly get embarrassed, you always want to get back out on the right foot and help your team,” Sale said.

The left-hander took the mound for the ninth inning with a chance for his fifth complete game, but when he walked leadoff hitter L.J. Hoes, Ventura replaced his starter with reliever Matt Lindstrom.

“You always want to work efficiently and get as deep into games as you can,” Sale said. “I would have loved to have closed out that one tonight but it just didn’t work out. I was thankful for the opportunity to at least get the shot for it.”

When he walked off the field this time, it was all about handshakes and high-fives, instead of slamming his glove against the ledge above the team bench and taking his frustrations out on the water cooler.

It’s been a difficult season for Sale (10-12), who has had some of the worst run support in baseball all season. He has lost four times this season when pitching into the eighth inning while allowing three earned runs or less. The last White Sox pitcher to suffer a similar fate was Mark Buehrle, who had four such losses in 2002.

“There's been times he's let his emotions get him, but tonight, he didn’t let anything affect him as far as the score, or even giving up a home run,” Ventura said. “He just bounced right back and it was nice that we came back and scored another run after that.”

The offense has been terrible at scoring runs for Sale so it seemed fitting that it was a pair of new guys who reversed that trend. Leury Garcia stole a base and scored the go-ahead run on a shallow sacrifice fly in the seventh inning, while Avisail Garcia hit a three-run home run in the same inning. Both joined the White Sox roster this month.

“Honestly, the Garcia boys stole the show tonight,” Sale said. “What an unbelievable job they did tonight. A big homer and I think both of them were involved in every run scored, so hats off to them and they won it for us.”

Sale became the first White Sox pitcher to strike out 12 or more batters four times in a single season, breaking a tie with Javier Vazquez (2006) and Ed Walsh (1910). Sale also has 193 strikeouts this season, one more than the career best he set last year.

And while learning how to channel his energy has been big this season, learning what it takes to get through a full season at full strength should have benefits moving forward.

“I feel good, my arm feels loose, my body feels good,” Sale said. “Something [pitching coach Don Cooper] and I have talked about is last year I kind of limped across the finish line. This one he’s like, ‘Let’s sprint across at the end of the year.’ It’s something I’m working toward and trying to do.”