CHICAGO -- Chris Sale zipped a 92 mph fastball past Lorenzo Cain for an emphatic strikeout to punctuate a jewel of a defensive sequence for the White Sox in the eighth inning, his last pitch of the game nearly as hard as his first.
The White Sox's left-hander was back to his old self on Monday night, throwing steadily in the high 90s with near precision command in his first start in nine days that resulted in a 4-2 win over the Kansas City Royals.
Sale picked up his 13th win of the season after lasting eight innings and allowing two runs on eight hits to go with seven strikeouts and no walks. He showed no signs of the dead arm that prompted the Sox to play it safe with its prized pitcher.
“It felt good,” Sale said. “It felt loose, felt comfortable out there. I just try not to do too much. Sometimes when you feel too loose you try to do a little bit too much and that’s the thing I was trying not to do.”
Sale needed just seven pitches to get out of the first inning and followed that with three more 1-2-3 innings. He reached 95 mph in the first inning and his fastball hovered mostly in the low to mid 90s the rest of the night, topping out at 96 in the seventh inning. The only trouble Sale ran into was in the fifth, when he gave up a home run to Jeff Francoeur on an 89 mph. fastball and two other fly balls to the warning track.
“I think you watch him and you look for signs of maybe his velocity down or not being as sharp, but you know it looks like it was enough,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He had what he needed to go out there and pitch well and feel confident when he was out there.”
That confidence was in full force in the eighth inning, when Sale found himself with runners on first and third with no out. Alexei Ramirez recorded the first out with a diving catch on an infield blooper. Sale showed off his athleticism for the next out, when he cleanly fielded a bunt near the third-base line just in time to tag the runner from third before he reached home. Sale needed just three pitches -- a slider and two fastballs -- to strikeout Cain and escape a jam. No one was ever up in the bullpen during that inning. Sale pumped his fists and let out some emotion as he walked off the field for the night.
“That’s what you want, to be out there in those tight situations,” Sale said. “Like I said, Alexei made an unbelievable play right there that, I think, saved that game. Like I said before it was an all-around well played ball game, timely hitting, good defense.”
And good pitching.