Instead, the 6-foot-6 Cy Young hopeful left Cleveland with his worst outing as a professional, allowing eight earned runs in 4.1 innings and earning his first loss of the season, as the White Sox fell 9-4 to the Indians.
The end result elicited plenty of self-deprecation, with Sale referring to the outing as “terrible” and to himself as “an idiot.”
“It was just leaving bad pitches to good hitters,” Sale said of Saturday’s loss. “Nothing more than a terrible, terrible day. Our team needed a better effort and deserved a better effort. I didn’t give it to them tonight.”
Sale came into the contest with not only a strong career track record, but one of relative dominance against the Indians. Saturday marked his first career loss to the Tribe, having gone 2-0 with an ERA of 2.29 in his previous three starts. Before being converted to a starter, Sale recorded three saves across 11 relief appearances.
Conversely, Indians starting pitcher Zach McAllister -- a player with a considerably less dominating reputation --pitched into the seventh inning for his first victory of the season, striking out six and walking just one.
Though Sale’s previous two starts went at least seven innings, Saturday afternoon saw a different pitcher -- one who seemingly could not locate any of his pitches, all of which started to appear the same as the game drew on.
“I think you start watching replays of it and you see him being in the middle of the plate a lot,” said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Sale’s outing. “There wasn’t much difference between his changeup and some of the fastballs he was running in there. You get it over the middle of the plate and [the Indians] have some guys who can swing the bat. They didn’t miss.”
In his four-plus innings of work, Sale allowed eight hits, two of which were home runs that would net the Indians six runs. After he was provided a two-run cushion in the first inning, Sale gave up a home run to Cleveland’s designated hitter Nick Swisher, the veteran’s first homer of the year.
In the fifth inning, after allowing a single to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and a double to second baseman Ryan Raburn, Sale hit Swisher in the leg with a backdoor slider to load the bases. The slider would come back to haunt Sale once again, as he would hang one in the middle of the plate, allowing Cleveland first baseman Mark Reynolds to hit his second career grand slam.
Though the mid-April weather in Cleveland left a lot to be desired on the day -- pelting fans and players with rain and sleet through various innings -- Sale was not going to make excuses for his poor outing.
“I didn’t think I had too much of anything today,” Sale said. “It was a grind. McAllister came out and did what he had to do. I’m not here to make excuses. I didn’t do what I had to do to get it done. I just have to do work these next four days and do everything I can to change this."
In the middle of the fifth inning, Sale was given a warning by home plate umpire Ed Hickox after he hit Indians left fielder Michael Brantley with a fastball immediately after the grand slam by Reynolds. It was his second hit batter of the inning.
Sale, well aware of the recent consternation throughout the league when it comes to hit batters and retribution, was adamant that he did not hit Brantley intentionally, but that he overthrew the fastball out of frustration.
“With Swisher, it was just a slider I yanked in,” said Sale. “Brantley was just me being an idiot, honestly -- just me trying to throw it by him. You had some things happen in that previous inning, I was just trying to go out there and be more, be better than I am. Unfortunately, it got away and it hit him.”
“I understand it’s a difficult spot to be in,” he said. “If you’re going to hit a guy, you don’t do it there. I think I know enough about the game, if I was going to do it intentionally, it’s not going to be in that situation or at that time. Not only does it look bad on my part, but it looks bad on the team. That’s not what I’m about or what we’re about.
“On top of that, you now have targets on some of these guys in here, and it’s not their fault I gave up eight runs today. It’s not their fault that grand slam left the yard. It’s on me. All that said, I had no intentions of doing that, and I don’t think I ever will.”