The Chicago White Sox staff ace didn’t have his best stuff Monday night in a 3-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals, but it was enough to shut down his opponent, yielding just one run on seven hits over seven innings.
Despite missing a month early in the season with a sore arm, Sale improved to 9-1 with a 2.03 ERA that is second-best in the American League. He even has a 0.86 WHIP that leads all AL starters who qualify.
“All the good teams have a legitimate ace and not only are they good, but once every five days you have a really good chance to win, and that’s the kind of pitcher [Sale] is,” said Adam Dunn, who drove in the first two White Sox runs on a first-inning single and scored the third in the sixth inning.
Whether or not Sale is Cy Young-worthy is a question that will be answered over the final two months of the season. The left-hander will have a tough time battling a name-recognition guy like Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners, with Scott Kazmir of the Oakland Athletics, Garrett Richards of the Los Angeles Angels and Jon Lester of the Boston Red Sox sure to have a say in the proceedings as well.
“There is no reason why [Sale] shouldn’t be in the discussion,” manager Robin Ventura said. “I don’t care if you miss a month or not. I mean, he’s good. That part [missing time], I don’t care about.”
When it comes to the Cy Young voting, Sale has been moving in the right direction in recent years. In his first season as a starter (2012), he finished sixth in the voting. Last season, he was fifth. If the voting took place today, it would appear to be a race between him and Hernandez.
Jake Petricka doesn’t get a vote, and he might be slightly biased as a White Sox reliever, but he knows who the Cy Young winner is this year.
“Oh yeah, every time he goes out there he shows he should be in contention for it,” said the right-hander, who pitched the ninth inning Monday for his fourth save. “And I think this might be his year.”
Sale might be willing to do everything for his team, but one thing he won’t do is promote himself or pump up his chances for pitching’s greatest annual prize. He said he wouldn’t vote for himself in the Final Vote for the All-Star Game and still got a spot on the team. He will take a similarly silent route when the Cy Young talk starts to heat up.
“Like I've always said, I don't really pay too much attention to any of that,” Sale said when the subject came up after Monday’s game. “I have a job to do and I have to focus on doing that. We're right in the hunt right now. These are the dog days and you've got to bear down now. Now is not the time to be thinking about yourself or some whatever trophy.”
It doesn’t mean Sale wouldn’t proudly display a Cy Young trophy on his mantel one day. He just doesn’t want anything to do with talking about it.
“It’s almost a new season from here on out,” Sale said. “This is the most important part of the season. I think getting a little time off helped everyone relax a little bit and then get back to it.”
There are plenty of key numbers to help make a case for Sale. Monday was his seventh consecutive quality start and he has recorded double digits in strikeouts four times this year, although just once over his past six starts.
Over his past three outings, he is 2-0 with a 1.47 ERA, so he is only getting better as the season progresses. And after a White Sox defeat, Sale is 4-0 with three no-decisions, proving to be an ultimate stopper. Then there are his 17 walks ... in 15 starts.
And as long as he can squeeze in more home starts, he will be in business. Sale is 7-1 this year at U.S Cellular Field with a 1.90 ERA.
“I’m just trying to get better day in and day out, not walking a lot of guys,” Sale said. “That’s something I really pride myself on: throwing strikes and working quick.”