- Jon Greenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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The two positives in an otherwise dreary season met Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field, and the game lived up to the hype.
Sale didn’t break that strikeout record the White Sox concocted, but he threw a complete-game gem and his hitters scored a rare comeback victory against 2005 World Series hero Mark Buehrle with a 4-2 win against the Toronto Blue Jays.
The game took 1 hour, 54 minutes, a Buehrle Special. You want to know how that happens? No pitching changes and no walks.
Buehrle might have pitched his final game at U.S. Cellular Field. Or maybe he has a little more left. He was still throwing that classic 87 mph smoke in the eighth inning.
“Well, I’m a free agent, so if no one gives me a contract, then what am I going to do?” Buehrle asked after the game. “I can’t foresee the future. I don’t know.”
Someone will give the 36-year-old Buehrle a deal for a 17th season in the majors, and hey, the White Sox could always use another lefty in the rotation. In truth, Buehrle (9-5, 3.38 ERA) should have won Monday. None of his four runs was earned. He made one bad pitch to Melky Cabrera that scored two runs in the eighth.
In front of a rowdy crowd, the last-place White Sox, who have won five of six to improve to 37-43, notched a very rare comeback by scoring three runs with two out in the eighth. They entered Monday 4-35 when trailing after seven innings.
Sale, named to his fourth consecutive All-Star Game before the game, also deserved to get the win over his former mentor. He gave up six hits and struck out six in a 108-pitch complete game.
While Sale is like Buehrle in the way a Porsche is like a Dodge Charger, the 26-year-old did learn how to work fast from the guy who works quickly and throws ... less quickly.
While Buehrle couldn’t teach Sale to throw 98 mph during their time together, he could show his fellow lefty how to grip and go.
“That’s the name of the game,” said Sale, who dominated against the best offense in the American League, giving up just two solo homers. “Watching him for a few years, you get the ball and go. Nobody likes to stand out there for three hours. Nobody. Fans, players, coaches, nobody. So get the ball and go. Another thing too: Trust your catcher and don’t shake off. Why would I not trust him? He does so much homework behind the plate, in between starts and everything. Just get it and go. Trust it.”
As Sox manager Robin Ventura said after the game, “Grasshopper learn well, apparently.”
How can you fire a manager fluent in "Kung Fu" quotes?
Ventura likes the idea of Buehrle spreading his gospel across the minor leagues.
“There should be a school,” Ventura said. “They have to go to Mark Buehrle school before they get to the big leagues. You just grab the ball and throw. It’s fun to watch. You enjoy it even on the other side, even though he’s part of the history here and family. Everybody should learn under him. Just grab it, throw it, don’t overthink it. You can still get through games without having to sit there and walk around the mound one time and pick up the rosin bag and do a skit. Just grab the ball and throw it.”
No one ever talks about what Buehrle does on the mound, just what time they get home from the ballpark. That's the beauty of his game -- and it fits his personality.
“To be honest with you, I mean it’s fun, but I’d rather have a game when I’m on the bench be under two hours,” he said. “Everybody enjoys fast games when I’m pitching, but I want to enjoy a fast game when I’m watching.”
Good luck with that. We miss Buehrle around these parts, but watching Sale pitch is truly something to behold. While his well-marketed streak of double-digit strikeout starts ended at eight, a complete game is a pretty good consolation prize.
“I’ll take this outcome over that any day,” Sale said.
With the strikeout “record” on the line, the Sox gave out K cards to the entire stadium, and every time he got to two strikes on a hitter, the fans roared, giving the game a playoff atmosphere despite a undersized crowd of 24,593.
While Buehrle is beloved for his World Series exploits, Sale already has reached icon status in Chicago and around baseball. Any talk of trading him in a massive rebuild is misguided. As Ventura said, everyone wants a pitcher like Sale, so why would you get rid of him?
The Sox obviously should trade nonessential players after the All-Star break -- this isn’t a contending team, but Sale should be an untouchable.
“The dude is a beast,” Sox starter Jeff Samardzija said. “He’s built to pitch. If you look at him, he’s one solid muscle. He loves to throw and he knows how to throw, too, which is the scary thing. He doesn’t just have good stuff; he knows where to put it and when to put it there.”
“The stuff he has, he should dominate guys,” Buehrle said. “If I had that, I feel like I’d strike out 20 every game. No, but he’s outstanding.”
With the 2005 reunion slated for later this month, the Sox gave away a T-shirt with the caricature of the 2005 players Monday night. Sentimentality has been in the air all season, and for good reason. We won't see a team like that one again anytime soon.
Buehrle won’t make the reunion the weekend of July 17-19 -- "One, I'd get worn out from our guys in here if I leave one of our games to come back for it,” he said -- but he knows he’ll always be treated like a hero at 35th and Shields. While Buehrle isn't a tender type, he was touched by the applause.
“Yeah, I’d be lying to say it wasn’t getting me a little more amped up than I should have been,” Buehrle said. “Throughout the game, it was just special.”
He was so amped he was throwing 88 mph fastballs in the first, or 10 mph slower than Sale in the ninth.
The White Sox haven't lived up to their preseason press clippings, but this game sure did. For one night, the past and present co-existed peacefully and quickly.