Chris Sale should be allowed to make one mistake.
After overpowering Asdrubal Cabrera with fastballs all day, he threw one that was a little too fat the third time up in the seventh inning. Cabrera deposited it into the seats in left field, turning a one-run White Sox lead into a one-run White Sox deficit and effectively sealing the sweep.
The White Sox had a chance to win any or all of the three games in St. Petersburg. They ended up losing all three and nullifying the benefits of sweeping the Astros.
Sale did his part. He struck out 12 batters for the fourth straight start to put himself among elite company:
Most consecutive starts with 12+ strikeouts, since 1914: 1999 Pedro, 5 1998 Randy, 5 2001 Pedro, 4 1998 Pedro, 4 2015 SALE, 4— Brian Malone (@ChiCityBrian) June 14, 2015
He wasn't as sharp as his previous outings -- the game started with a single and a walk, and he only threw first-pitch strikes to 13 of 28 batters -- but he managed to overcome bad counts and an error by Gordon Beckham. He retired seven in a row at one point, and then 11 in a row at another point. He also held the Rays hitless in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position. He wasn't the problem.
The problem was an offense that was stymied by Nate Karns. The Sox thumped Karns for three homers last year, including two tape-measure shots by Avisail Garcia. Today, good swings were few and far between -- especially with runners on base.
They had their chances, and the game started well enough when, in the second inning, Beckham broke his 0-for-24 skid with a well-struck double, then scored on Carlos Sanchez's single through the right side. That turned out to be the only hit with runners in scoring position out of nine chances.
The middle of the order was especially problematic, as Jose Abreu, Adam LaRoche and Garcia went 0-for-11 with a walk and five strikeouts. Abreu spent the day getting jammed, and LaRoche wished he had Abreu's output (he wore the golden sombrero, including three backwards K's). They all stranded multiple runners between them.
The Sox now head on to Pittsburgh, where Robin Ventura will rejoin them, assuming he wants to return.
*Sale threw 125 pitches -- or 126, considering he fired a full-strength fastball while the umpire called time. He ended up missing a month the only other time he threw that many pitches. I hope all his parts held together, considering he was Pissed Sale from the Cabrera homer on.
*Alexei Ramirez and Sanchez had another late-inning communication breakdown, as Evan Longoria's single skittered between them while they both pulled up.
*The good feelings from Sanchez's RBI single didn't last long, as he was thrown out by Rene Rivera trying to stretch it into a double. The Sox were 1-for-2 trying to steal, too, so it wasn't a banner day in the baserunning department, either.
*Melky Cabrera hit a double, so he has seven extra-base hits to nine double plays.