BOSTON -- Time will tell if Chris Sale is back to being a dominating pitcher again, but his three-pitch outing Tuesday night looked awfully familiar.
Sale ended the 10-7 victory over the Red Sox by striking out the red-hot Adrian Gonzalez on three pitches. After firing two fastballs, the second of which hit 97 mph on the radar gun, he dropped in a nasty slider that froze Gonzalez in his tracks.
It looked like another three-pitch strikeout from last season, when Sale buckled hitting stud Joe Mauer on three pitches in a game at Minnesota.
“You obviously don’t want to give them anymore momentum,” said Sale, who earned his second save. “Our plan was to go out there and attack, throwing strikes and hey, it worked out for the best this time.”
Making Tuesday’s strikeout even more impressive was the fact that the Red Sox were gaining on the White Sox quickly, having scored five runs over the last two innings to turn a blowout game into a save situation for the bullpen.
“That’s what he was ready for,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “I had [Sergio] Santos ready for [Kevin] Youkilis [on deck] just in case. Sale is going to face the best hitters in the American League right now. It was a big out. I don’t want Youk there with the tying run at the plate in this park.”
Sale thought he might go slider on the second pitch to Gonzalez, but catcher A.J. Pierzynski called for the fastball and the lefty got a little bit extra on it.
“I figured he would take the first one and we would pound him with sliders after that,” Sale said. “I ended up throwing a fastball second pitch. It’s one of those things where I was trying to not think too much out there and go with it.”
It might be a strategy Sale could use to chip away at that heavy 5.31 ERA he’s carrying around.
“They are a talented team,” Sale said. “With teams like that, you never really can sleep on them. Like I said, just keep saying whenever they need me and I’ll go out there, regardless of the situation or when it is.”