Chris Sale is the rarest kind of pitcher. He can post a game that all but a handful of guys in the league would blackmail their mothers to have, yet leave the impression that he could've done a little more.
"He's just blessed with a heck of an arm and an arsenal," Flowers said. "On his bad days, I still don't want to face him. … I have seen guys, in my humble opinion, with less stuff have no-hitters, so he's definitely capable of it. Today wasn't the day though."
"You're not going out there trying to strike out 16 guys every time," said Sale, who isn't overly moved by individual records. "I have a job to do, and that's win games and leave my team a chance to win when I get [taken] out."
So that leaves the question: What did Sale actually accomplish on Sunday? That is, aside from thrilling a packed house and retaining crosstown bragging rights by ending a short White Sox losing streak and a longer Cubs winning streak by making a young North Side lineup look silly with his slider while making Sox fans pregnant with it?
Despite the more glaring disappointments, there are a few crumbs of triumph:
No. 1: He struck out 200 hitters for the third consecutive season.
And this is how he did it:
Chris Sale's 200th strikeout enhanced. https://t.co/hPVVXEXSLc— South Side Sox (@SouthSideSox) August 17, 2015
His 15 strikeouts beefed up his total to 208, over just 157⅓ innings and 23 starts. That puts him on track to set the White Sox single-season strikeout record held by Ed Walsh, who fanned 269 in 1908. Sale wouldn't need every possible start to do it, either:
- 30 starts: 271 strikeouts
- 31 starts: 280 strikeouts
- 32 starts: 289 strikeouts
For now, he tied himself for 10th place on the White Sox record list. He and Walsh are the only pitchers to do it three times (Big Ed's the lone member of the Five-Timers Club).
No. 2: The White Sox set a club record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game.
Thanks to Nate Jones striking out the side in the eighth, the Sox finished with 18 strikeouts, which had never been done before in franchise history.
Granted, this one isn't so rich in lore. The old record wasn't even a year old, as Jose Quintana, Zach Putnam and Javy Guerra combined for 17 strikeouts against the Twins on Sept. 13. The Sox had struck out 16 batters in four games this year alone, so it was only a matter of time.
No. 3: He needs to pitch in a playoff game.
OK, that isn't what you would call an accomplishment, but it needs to be said. Between this game and his duels with Corey Kluber and Mark Buehrle, Sale has shown he can exceed the expectations for even heavily anticipated games. Now he just needs a team that can give him the opportunity to do it in October.
"It’s fun," Sale said. "The crowd gets into it. People in the K Zone are going crazy for me. It’s a fun, fun time. You have balls leaving the park, guys hitting homers. It’s a fun atmosphere to play in. I wish we could do that more often."