Sale getting first taste of pennant pressure

September, 2, 2012
9/02/12
5:15
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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DETROIT -- Many baseball people are looking at Chris Sale's coming of age in September as the ultimate test of the Chicago White Sox left-hander's young career. To the 23-year-old’s credit, he chooses to ignore all the hype that goes along with the pressure of a pennant race.

“We have to go out there like they are any other game,” Sale said. “This series (versus the Detroit Tigers) is what it is, but there is still some baseball left after this one.”

The White Sox are in a minor funk, entering the last game of a road trip in which they so far have lost five of six games. Like all aces of the past, the big boys like Sale and Jake Peavy are supposed to be the stoppers of long losing streaks.

[+] EnlargeChris Sale
Ron Vesely/MLB Photos/Getty ImagesChris Sale has thrown 157 innings in his first season as a starter.
“I don’t pitch for myself,” Sale said. “I go out and pitch for our guys. I compete for this team. If you set your own standards, they might not go the way you want them to throughout the course of a game. The main goal is keep your head on tight and go with the flow of that game.”

The Sox have been cautious with Sale’s innings in his first year as a starter, but it is not known if Sale will be shut down again this month. The smart money says he will be skipped for one start sometime before the end of September.

Pitching coach Don Cooper told beat reporters last week that there is no plan to stop Sale from making the rest of his starts. Other sources insist that with the promising young pitcher moving into uncharted waters, each start and segment of starts will be looked at to determine if another rest is necessary before October.

Entering Sunday’s start against Detroit, Sale has already amassed 157 innings pitched. He threw just 71 innings in 2011 out of the Sox bullpen and he threw a total of 104 innings combined during 2010 and 2011.

Sale has shown he can step up his game after losses, putting up big strikeout totals.

“I guess I have (amped it up),” Sale said. “You never want to go into a skid or anything like it. Every time I go out and get beat, I feel like I have to be much better next time out. That is something I have strived to do every time out -- to leave it all out there.”

Before Sunday’s big matchup with Justin Verlander, Sale was 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA against Detroit in 2012. He is doing his best not to get caught up in the media hype of pitching matchups determining results.

“I do my best not to,” Sale said. “For me it is just another game. That is the way I am looking at it. When you start putting (big-game) tags on them and giving them their own category, then you try to be too good. I just stick to my game plan and pitch like it is just another game.”

Sale is 7-3 with a 3.86 ERA on the road in 2012 but is just 3-3 with a 5.24 ERA in his last seven road starts.

Bruce Levine | email

Chicago baseball beat reporter
Bruce Levine has covered sports in Chicago for over 28 years and hosts "Talkin' Baseball," heard Saturday mornings on ESPN 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Alexei Ramirez
BA HR RBI R
.390 4 14 13
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Ramirez 4
RBIA. Ramirez 14
RA. Eaton 15
OPSA. Ramirez 1.099
WC. Sale 3
ERAJ. Quintana 2.37
SOC. Sale 19