Astros 2, White Sox 1: Chris Sale for naught

USA TODAY Sports

Error, flatlining offense undermines dominant 14-strikeout effort

Chris Sale threw a complete game, struck out 14, allowed zero earned runs ... and still lost.

In fact, he's the first White Sox pitcher since at least 1916 to ever strike out 14 batters (or more) and suffer the defeat. When such a magnificent start can feel so empty, we might be looking at a new low.

Sale was masterful, but the defense -- specifically Alexei Ramirez in the fifth inning -- was far from it. A series of unfortunate events allowed the Astros to score a pair of unearned runs, and thanks to another flat showing by the offense, that gave Houston enough to win.

Ronny Cedeno reached when a charging Ramirez couldn't handle his slow chopper for an E6, and that scoring judgment seemed harsh. If Ramirez came up with it cleanly, he still might've not had enough time to get Cedeno at first. It's fair to let that one slide.

The second error ... nope. Sale came back with a strikeout and a flyout, but he caught a spike on his second pitch to Trevor Crowe, and threw the ball home while tripping. The bouncing ball was close to a balk, and it was definitely a wild pitch that allowed Cedeno to take second. Sale seemed to lose his release point as he walked Crowe on four pitches.

But he got back on track against Brandon Barnes and induced a weak grounder to short. Ramirez ranged to his right, turned and threw to second. Or at least that was his intended destination. The throw really ended up in right field, which allowed the first unearned run to score, and Crowe popped up to take third. That 90 feet turned out to be huge, because Jeff Keppinger was able to stop Jose Altuve's chopper with diving stab, but he couldn't get up quickly enough to get Altuve at first, which brought the second run home.

Sale regrouped and ended up finishing the game for a beautiful final line: 8 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 14 K over a career-high 124 pitches. But that was only worth a loss, because the Sox offense couldn't capitalize on a couple of scoring threats.

The Sox went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position, and the hit didn't drive in a run. With two on and two out in the second, Casper Wells tapped a pitch toward third. Matt Dominguez fielded it, but he didn't have a play, and it loaded the bases for Tyler Flowers. Flowers swung at a curve for strike three to end the threat.

Alex Rios ended another potential rally in the fifth with a strikeout, and Ramirez his a weak 5-3 to kill one in the seventh.

They pushed across their only run in the fourth with some nice execution. Paul Konerko show one down the third-base line for a double, moved to third on a passed ball, and scored on an Adam Dunn sac fly. Trading a run for an out gave them a 1-0 lead, but they never could add on.

Bullet point:

*What's frustrating about the Ramirez error is that he took a double away from Chris Carter with an incredible leaping grab on the hardest-hit ball of the night.

*Gordon Beckham batted leadoff and went 1-for-4 as Alejandro De Aza missed the game with stomach problems. Wells made his first start in center and wasn't tested.

Record: 28-36 | Box score | Play-by-play | Highlights

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