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After a slow start to the 2015 campaign, White Sox ace Chris Sale is finally pitching at the level we all expected
Written by Jake Elman
When you’re a starting pitcher in the big leagues, there’s dominant, and then there’s ridiculously dominant. The difference, you ask? When you’re ridiculously dominant, you’re falling into the same sentence as Hall of Famers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and Nolan Ryan.
With the groove that he’s been in lately, White Sox ace Chris Sale has been not just ridiculously dominant, but he’s been putting up numbers that would be unrealistic even in a video game. Sale, the former Florida Gulf Coast star that quickly ascended to the big leagues in 2010 just months after being drafted, struck out fourteen men — the sixth straight outing he’s punched out men in double digits — in a loss to the Texas Rangers.
“What did he punch out? Fourteen, 15, something like that?” Texas starter Colby Lewis said of Sale, the man he dueled against on Friday night. “He definitely had it going on. I just tried to go out there and match. If he’s doing it, then I try to go out there and have quick innings, too.”
Now, here’s where the numbers start getting crazy: Sale, over his last six starts, has a 1.19 ERA with a 75/7 K/BB ratio over 45 1/3 innings and that’s despite only being 3-2 in those games. After a loss to the Minnesota Twins on May 23 that saw Sale’s ERA sit at 4.23, the lefty ace has lowered his ERA all the way down to 2.74, the first time since April 23 it’s been below 3.00.
In the loss, Sale also extended a franchise record for double-digit strikeout games to 25, and he has struck out at least one in 35 straight innings. And, as mentioned earlier, Sale has now struck out double-digit batters in six consecutive starts, which puts him in the same conversation as Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, and Nolan Ryan, all Hall of Fame starting pitchers.
Martinez did it on three occasions (two with the Red Sox and one with the Expos from 1997-2000) and has the longest streak at 10 starts, while Johnson struck out 10 or more batters in six or more consecutive starts five times from 1998-2002 (split across the Mariners and Diamondbacks). Nolan Ryan, who did it in 1972 and 1977, had both a seven-game streak and a six-game streak with the California Angels.
“It’s an honor to get my name mentioned with them, but it’s something more for you guys and friends and family. I’m here for one reason, and that’s winning ballgames,” Sale told reporters following the team’s 2-1 loss. “All the other stuff is more of a distraction than anything, really.”
Unfortunately for Sale, though, things aren’t going so well for the rest of the White Sox. For the second consecutive game started by Sale, the White Sox lost 2-1, this time blowing the lead in the ninth inning when big-money closer David Robertson crumbled under the pressure.
“I feel awful because of how well Sale pitched tonight,” Robertson, a former All-Star with the New York Yankees, admitted after the game. “I went out there and blew it.”
White Sox manager Robin Ventura wasn’t pleased either, telling reporters, “You have to stay disciplined in the game and come in here with a positive attitude and ready to go. It’s easier said than done on some points, but you’re pros and you come in here and you expect to turn around and have a good effort. That’s required of everybody. There’s no exception to that.”
With the loss, Chicago fell to 28-38 in what’s been yet another dismal season for the White Sox, but Sale hasn’t lost all hope yet.
“We’re definitely pulling from the same rope, on the same side,” Sale said. “There’s no doubt. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but you can’t stop pulling.”
Do you think Chris Sale will keep up this hot streak? Make sure to chime in on the conversation by tweeting me at @JakeElman