CHICAGO – The White Sox’s failure to score sufficient runs when he is on the mound is nothing new for Chris Sale.
Any annoyance at the number of losses, which have piled up in recent weeks and have tarnished his individual record, has been carefully hidden as Sale endures the toughest stretch of his young career. The Kansas City Royals were the latest team to victimize the Sox during a Sale start. Despite Sale tossing a complete game, his third this season, and holding the Royals to one run, the Sox lost to Kansas City, 1-0, on Saturday at U.S. Cellular Field.
Sale dropped to 1-8 with a 2.84 ERA in his past 10 starts while the Sox scored 16 total runs during that stretch. His eight losses since June 2 are the most in the majors ahead of teammate John Danks, who has seven.
“It’s not easy to try and explain it to him, but he’s learned a tough lesson and part of baseball,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He pitched great tonight, there’s no question about it. You can’t be perfect but he’s pretty dang close.”
This season, second as a starter, certainly has been a learning experience for Sale. If Sale needs any words of encouragement, he should reach out to former teammate and current Blue Jays pitcher Mark Buehrle. With his complete-game effort against the Royals, Sale became the Sox’s first pitcher to lose four games after throwing at least eight innings and allowing three earned runs or less since Buehrle also lost four games in 2002 (STATS).
Sale (6-10) has managed to keep an upbeat attitude amid a season in which not much has gone his way.
“A win’s a win, a loss is a loss – it doesn’t matter how you get there, who gets it or how you do it,” Sale said. “Just keep grinding, stay on top, keep your head up and things will turn around.”
However, this year hasn’t been a complete bust for the 24-year-old left-hander. Sale has had an opportunity to become more of a leader, which can’t be overlooked with pitcher Jake Peavy potentially being moved before Wednesday’s trade deadline and veteran Paul Konerko possibly leaving when his contract expires at the end of the season. His impact, on the field and in the clubhouse, hasn’t been lost on the Sox.
“In the short amount of time he’s been starting, he probably has the best stuff, maybe, of anybody we’ve ever had – and certainly left-handed stuff – I can’t think of anybody offhand that’s been as dominant,” Konerko said.
Now Sale must take that next step. This tough stretch represents a chance for Sale to show he can lead by example even when he isn’t getting the results he wants. Ventura said Sale “gets angry in all the right ways” on the days he pitches and expects that will only make him better on the mound going forward. Monday’s blowup aside stemming from when Ventura forced him to intentionally walk Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, Sale is becoming the Sox’s next leader in the clubhouse.
That torch must be passed on at some point and Sale finally is getting to learn what it means to lead during a difficult time on the field for both the Sox and himself.
“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.”
• Meghan Montemurro covers the White Sox and Cubs for Shaw Media. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Sox Insider and Inside the Cubs blogs at NWHerald.com and on Twitter @Sox_Insider and @InsideTheCubs.