Against Minnesota yesterday, Chris Sale really didn't have his best anything. He wasn't laboring, but there did seem to be a hangover effect from going toe to toe with Zack Greinke. In any case, it was still plenty against a Twins lineup that happened to be a particularly bad matchup against the Condor as the Twins' best bats outside of Josh Willingham are all left handed. The rest of the lineup was a bunch of whodats like Trevor Plouffe and Brian Dozier who need luck to really do any damage against superior stuff.
To me at least, it seemed as though Sale recognized all of this. He never had his best velocity and on top of that his command was far from great. Fortunately, he appears to have learned a lesson about pitching at less than 100% Rather than continue to try to make pitches in the vein of those he normally does, Sale threw more off-speed pitches than usual and made sure to put them in the zone wherever they may land.
This sort of pitching led to a decent number of hard hit balls, including Dozier's HR. That particular slider may have been Sale's worst on the season. Not that it really mattered. The movement on his change and slider were too much and he refused to give in and let them beat him on his relatively lackluster fastball. And of course, it certainly helped that the Twins weren't especially inclined to work for free passes. Even so, Sale (with AJ calling the game) kept his off-speed stuff in the zone and made sure nobody could sit on his fastball.
That quality best links his start yesterday against his masterful performance against the Brewers last Friday. And the Crew, let it be known, were far better equipped to attack the southpaw than were the Twinkies:
Without having plugged and chugged everyone, I came up with what are probably the best three hitters against lefties for each team. Thanks to this nifty Excel spreadsheet from Whelk at DRays Bay (ht: Sky Kalkman), we can get a more exact idea of just how much the Twins were in thanks to their roster construction. With Willingham and to a much lesser extent Span representing the dangermen in the Twins attack, Sale really didn't have much to worry about even though he wasn't at the top of his game.
Side note: interestingly, Span is one of those rare hitters with reverse platoon splits. So I'm not confident that nifty Excel spreadsheet handled that aspect of the projection ably. Either way, the table speaks to the problems the Twins have against lefties. Maybe I should have bothered to run Trevor Plouffe or Jamey Carroll's numbers. I doubt it.
Against the Brewers however, Sale had to navigate far more treacherous waters. As usual, his body language told the story. Rather than repeat his over-amped-ness as was obvious against the Dodgers, Sale was focused, collected and absolutely confident in his catcher's pitch selection:
Those are the pitches Sale threw on 3-2 last Friday. The 2 fastballs clocked 93-94 mph and induced a pop up each time. The 4 off-speed pitches all ended in strike outs, including a devastating slider to Maldonado with Rickie Weeks on third and two outs.
In other words, Sale was filthy all night and as ballsy as it gets. That's really all there is to say about it. When he's dominant like that, it shows up everywhere. On the box score, on TV, whatever. All there is to say is "wow", "goddamn" and "sheeeeeeeeiiit".