Chris Sale shines in first career start to help White Sox down Indians

CLEVELAND -- After one start, Chris Sale's overriding emotion was appropriate.


Throwing more than twice as many pitches as he ever had in the majors, Sale won his first career start, limiting Cleveland to one run in 6 2/3 innings and leading the Chicago White Sox to a 4-2 win over the Indians on Monday night.

Sale pitched out of Chicago's bullpen the past two seasons but was moved into the rotation after ace Mark Buehrle left as a free agent this winter. The left-hander, who had made 79 relief appearances, took a one-hit shutout into the sixth. In his longest outing, Sale allowed three hits and struck out five.

"First one," he said. "So far, so good."

The 23-year-old had little trouble with a Cleveland team that came in batting .153 and stayed at that feeble level.

A.J. Pierzynski hit a two-run homer in the first, four batters after Alejandro De Aza homered leading off against Josh Tomlin (0-1) to stake Sale to a 3-0 lead. The lanky 6-foot-6 Sale took it from there, handling the Indians with ease and making Chicago's decision to convert him from reliever to starter look good after one game.

"He threw great," said first-year manager Robin Ventura. "We probably could have left him in there. Very happy with what he did tonight. He had velocity and a slider to go with it. He's been kind of doing that all spring and it's kind of nice to see him bring that outside of Arizona."

Rookie Hector Santiago gave up Jose Lopez's leadoff homer in the ninth before getting his second save, closing out Sale's first win.

"That's a view of the future," starter Jake Peavy said to reporters as Sale dressed nearby.

The White Sox hope so.

Indians manager Manny Acta rested some of his left-handed regulars after a long season-opening series with Toronto and because of how tough Sale can be on lefties.

It didn't do much good.

Sale handled Cleveland's right-handed hitters, too.

"He was overpowering at times," Acta said. "He had a good fastball with tail and a sharp slider. He's very deceptive and runs into the 90s with sink."

When the White Sox selected Sale in the first round in 2010, the team's immediate need was for a reliever and he had been reliable in that role. But Buehrle's departure left open a spot in the rotation and the White Sox decided to pulled him from the bullpen. If his first start is any indication, he seems to be in the right spot.

Sale coasted into the seventh before giving up a leadoff single to Shelley Duncan. He came back and got Jason Kipnis to hit into a double play, but Ventura, who said before the game that Sale was not on a strict pitch count, decided 100 was enough and pulled his young lefty.

As he stepped into Chicago's dugout, Sale was warmly greeted by high-fives from his teammates.

Sale credited Pierzynski with calling a good game behind the plate.

"He was huge," Sale said of his catcher. "He called a great game. It sounds stupid, but I was just out there throwing the pitches."

The White Sox needed just five batters to double their home run total for the season in the first.

De Aza connected on Tomlin's fourth pitch for Chicago's first leadoff homer since Oct. 2, 2009. Paul Konerko hit a grounder up the middle that shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera caught up to but didn't field cleanly. Pierzynski followed by rocketing a 2-0 pitch into the lower seats in right to make it 3-0.

The three runs matched the entire amount allowed by Cleveland starters Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Derek Lowe in 22 innings.

Tomlin dusted himself off after the rough beginning and recorded his seventh strikeout in the fifth before De Aza doubled with two outs and scored when Brent Morel lined an RBI single off first baseman Lopez's glove.

Sale allowed only Aaron Cunningham's two-out single in the second and carried a 4-0 lead into the sixth before the Indians finally scored.

With two outs, Sale hit Shin-Soo Choo on the left hand, sending Cleveland's right fielder sprawling in the dirt near home plate. Last season, Choo missed eight weeks after his left thumb was broken by San Francisco's Jonathan Sanchez and needed surgery. Choo stayed in and promptly stole second before Carlos Santana brought him home with a single to right.

"That was a big scare," Acta said. "It shattered his thumb protector. He came back and swung well and got a hit. So I don't think there's any fear."

Chicago's bullpen had not allowed an earned run in 8 2/3 innings before Lopez connected in the ninth, hammering a 2-2 pitch off the foul pole in left.

Game notes
White Sox RF Alex Rios had a Little League-like error in the seventh when he dropped a routine fly that bounced embarrassingly off his glove. ... Konerko, who needs four homers to reach 400 for his career, tied Hall of Famer Luke Appling for second place in club history with 3,528 total bases. ... The White Sox plan to tour the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Tuesday. ... Pierzynski is the only catcher in baseball to record 1,000 or more innings caught in each of the last 10 seasons. He's three shy of 1,500 career games.