The last time Chris Sale pitched on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, Justin Verlander commanded most of the attention, and Sale's late fade didn't allow him to grab the headlines.
Tonight, Sale left no doubt about the main attraction.
Sale recorded his first MLB shutout, and it was as spectacular was it was efficient. He carried a perfect game 6⅓ innings until Mike Trout broke it up with a single through the middle. Then Sale faced the minimum afterwards.
The result: a one-hitter on 98 pitches.
And for most of this game, the White Sox needed him to be perfect, because the offense continued to stall just when it looked like it could sustain something.
In the second, Alexei Ramirez hit a one-out double and stayed there.
In the third, Casper Wells hit a two-out double, then was thrown out at the plate by Josh Hamilton on Tyler Flowers' single (Joe McEwing's second rough send in as many nights).
In the fourth, Mark Trumbo robbed Jeff Keppinger of a single with a diving catch after C.J. Wilson walked a pair, and Wells flied out to right to end that rally.
In the sixth, Ramirez singled, stole second, stole third, but Jeff Keppinger's couldn't cash him in.
Fortunately, Ramirez's hot bat was in a position to do some damage in the seventh. He came to the plate with two outs and runners on second and third after Alejandro De Aza couldn't bring in the first run of the game. He fell into the catbird seat 3-0, and instead of Taking All The Way, he was ready to hack.
The 3-0 swing resulted in a towering ... foul ball over the White Sox dugout. But Wilson came at him with a get-me-over slider on the next pitch, and Ramirez rifled it through the left side to score both runs.
Alex Rios then provided the icing on the cake with a shot over third base to cash in Ramirez. Sale had to endure his second long delay, but this time it actually gave him runs to play with.
Sale only needed one. His fastball was humming between 94-96 all night, and his slider and change were equally effective.
He even withstood the customary unnecessary White Sox error in the ninth. Ramirez charged Brendan Harris' grounder and rushed the throw wide, leaving Konerko in a position where he couldn't apply the tag. That opened the door for Mike Trout to come to the plate in the inning, but Sale got Luis Jimenez to ground into a firmly turned 5-4-3 double play.
With two outs in the ninth, Alberto Callaspo was the first batter to face Sale a fourth time. He'd also be the only. Sale got ahead 0-2, and after a chopped foul, he hit a harmless flyout to right to seal Sale's victory.
*Cuban artillery offered plenty of firepower tonight. Ramirez went 3-for-4 out of the second spot, stole two bases and figured in all three runs. He also made a ranging, spinning play on Callaspo's grounder up the middle, preserving Sale's perfect game bid for one more batter. That's why that error was so frustrating, because his performance was beyond reproach otherwise.
*Dayan Viciedo also continued to reach base, going 1-for-2 with a broken-bat single and two more walks.
*Wells' double was his first hit of the season, four teams in.