Coming off a game in which Jeff Samardzija couldn't hold a three-run lead, Chris Sale showed how to do it.
Sale continued his torrid streak of pitching, torching the Astros for 14 strikeouts over eight innings as the White Sox bounced back from a disappointing series with a victory over a game Lance McCullers.
With those 14 K's, the Condor became the first Sox pitcher to record 10 or more strikeouts in four consecutive starts. He also became the first pitcher to strike out 12 or more in three straight starts since Pedro Martinez in 2001.
Rainy weather delayed the start of this game and caused a 38-minute stoppage during, and the latter might've contributed to Sale's lone stumble in the fourth inning. Either that, or it was just bad luck, because the Astros didn't hit a ball hard.
Jonathan Villar led off with a cue shot off the end of the bat through the right side. Jose Altuve then sneaked a grounder off Alexei Ramirez's glove, and both runners moved up when Melky Cabrera slipped on the wet turf trying to pick it up. Sale came back to strike out Evan Gattis and Chris Carter, but rookie Carlos Correa's grounder to the left side was too weak, and he ended up beating Ramirez's throw for the infield single. He was initially called out, but it looked like a blown call in real time, and the replay confirmed it.
That sequence of unfortunate placement put a run on Sale's tab for the first time in three starts, and it tied the game at 1 in the process. But the heart of the order came right back and gave him the lead he'd hold for good.
Jose Abreu led off with a single, then moved up to second on Adam LaRoche's deep flyout to center. That was good baserunning, but Avisail Garcia made the rest of the journey easier when he did what he does best -- smoking an outer-half fastball to right field. This one went over the wall, and that gave the Sox a 3-1 lead.
Sale held it from there, retiring 13 in a row, and 15 of his last 16. He recorded at least one strikeout in every inning, and only left one inning of work for the bullpen. David Robertson picked it up and recorded his 11th save, pitching around a one-out HBP.
The Astros actually out-hit the Sox 5-4, but the Sox found ways to cluster their best at-bats. They took a 1-0 lead off McCullers in the second when LaRoche doubled to left to start it (perhaps catchable, but Villar isn't a better outfielder than he is an infielder, and he isn't a good infielder). He moved to third on Garcia's grounder to the right side, and that 90 feet loomed large. A.J. Hinch called for the infield in, and Cabrera bounced one over McCullers' head and into center field for the first run.
The 3-4-5-6 segment of the White Sox lineup went 4-for-11 with a homer, double and an HBP. The rest of the lineup went 0-for-16, and didn't even reach base.
*Cabrera grounded into his ninth double play later in the game. He only has five extra-base hits.
*Sale hit 99.4 mph on a fastball that struck out Carter in the fourth inning, which looks like his fastest pitch of the year (previous high: 99.23)