Chris Sale started today by striking out the side. He ended his day by striking out the side.
In between and after, there was no letdown. White Sox fans only had to deal with the mildest of disappointments. Like Dexter Fowler spoiling Sale's no-hit bid with single in the sixth inning, the only one the Cubs tallied off him over seven innings. Or David Robertson allowing a solo shot to Jorge Soler with two outs in the ninth inning to ruin the shutout.
Otherwise, everything was gravy. Sale tied a career high with 15 strikeouts, the Sox backed him with three solo homers, and that was enough to salvage the season crosstown series split and end the Cubs' winning streak at nine games.
The Condor had everything working -- his fastball was back up to 98, and there was even a 99 in there. His changeup was a devastating equalizer, and he had all manners of slider working, from backdoor to back-foot, including this dandy to Chris Denorfia for his 200th K of the season:
Sale's 200th strikeout. pic.twitter.com/e2v5O7pIPh— South Side Sox (@SouthSideSox) August 16, 2015
He only faced real pressure in the sixth inning. Fowler broke up the no-hitter with a single through the left side, and Sale walked Denorfia for the first Cubs threat. Sale blew a fastball past Kris Bryant for the second out, but Anthony Rizzo turned into an inside fastball for one of his manufactured HBPs to load the bases. The Cubs left 'em that way, as Sale dropped a backdoor breaker to freeze Soler for strike three.
Fowler's single did Sale a favor, as he crossed the 100-pitch threshold during the sixth inning, making any no-hit bid a dangerous proposition. Instead, he came back for the seventh, struck out the side on 12 pitches and called it a day after a not-terrible 116 pitches, and a not-terrible game score of 88 (tied for his third-best).
The Sox offense didn't exactly light up Dan Haren on the other side, but they set off plenty of fireworks. Jose Abreu took an outer-half Haren fastball over the right-field wall for a solo shot in the third inning. Alexei Ramirez jumped on a hanger to left to start the fourth, and Melky Cabrera kept a long drive just fair to right in the fifth for the last of the Sox' three runs.
*Abreu reached base three times during a 2-for-3 day in his return to the second spot, and Cabrera went 2-for-4 behind him. The Sox shouldn't mess with this.
*Nate Jones struck out the side in his perfect eighth inning.