CHICAGO -- The main two-man core that the Chicago White Sox are building themselves around had an afternoon to remember Saturday in the first game of a doubleheader at U.S. Cellular Field.
Chris Sale rebounded from a rough first inning to strike out 13 and tie a White Sox record for most double-digit strikeout games, while Jose Abreu continued his blistering hot run at the plate with three more hits to extend his hitting streak to 10 games.
It ended in a rare victory for the White Sox, as the 6-3 triumph over the Detroit Tigers came after they had lost nine of their last 10 games and 16 of their last 21.
While others on the White Sox roster seem to have faded in the summer heat, Sale and Abreu keep pushing despite all the loses and the fact that the White Sox no longer are even an outside threat to move into wild-card contention.
“I feel good about it,” Abreu said through an interpreter when asked where he finds the inner drive this late in the season. “I feel like anything positive that has come from this season has come from the hard work, even before the season started. I just want to continue working that hard and hopefully have good results. I just thank God that I have been able to stay healthy and produce the way I have.”
During his 10-game hitting streak, Abreu is batting .528 (19-for-36). While hitting safely in 14 of his last 15 games he is batting .456 (26-for-57). It has helped Abreu raise his overall batting average to .320, fifth best in the American League and just 12 points behind leader Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros.
Despite the fact that a batting title in his rookie season would be a monumental accomplishment and give numeric proof of what he means to the White Sox, talking about it essentially makes Abreu cringe.
“You know, you look at it, there really aren’t enough games (to catch Altuve), and honestly the numbers and a batting title, that really doesn’t matter to me,” Abreu said. “What matters to me is doing what I can to help the team win.”
Not surprisingly, personal honors and accomplishments fail to move Sale’s needle as well. Sale tied Ed Walsh for the most double-digit strikeout games in White Sox history. He also came out of Saturday’s game with a 2.11 ERA, which still leads the American League with a month to play.
Honors like a franchise strikeout record and an ERA title can salvage what has been a disappointing team season, but if Sale was about to think along those lines, it wouldn’t be until the end of the season.
“Like I've said a million times before, I don't look into stuff like that,” Sale said. “My job is to pitch and play baseball. I don't worry about ERAs or titles or whatever else comes with that. I'm here to pitch and however it shakes out it shakes out.”
A miserable August gives the sense that the White Sox’s rebuild has stalled, but having Sale at its center provides that ace component, most teams only dream of.
“When you have somebody like him you realize you have a good pitcher, you have to be able to get some other things that go with it,” manager Robin Ventura said. “I think most people would like to have something like him on their roster. We feel like we can win anytime he goes out there.”