Tonight's game had a buzz to it once the pitching probables came out earlier this week: Chris Sale for the Chicago White Sox versus Seattle Mariners Felix Hernandez, arguably the two best pitchers in the American League going head-to-head. It's matchups like these that can make even dinger-hungry fans appreciate the beauty in a low-scoring affair.
Chris Sale was coming in scorching hot, winning his last two starts over the Los Angeles Angels and the Chicago Cubs (the latter featuring 15 strikeouts). Felix Hernandez on the other hand, was coming off one of the worst performances in his career, as the Boston Red Sox tattooed him for 10 earned runs in just 2 1/3 innings pitched.
Through the first three innings, fans got what they expected. Hernandez went unscathed with just 38 pitches thrown after the third, and Sale had already struck out five batters. He did give up one "hit" in the first inning:
That should have been ruled an error, but instead Ketel Marte got the hometown bonus with a double. That was the only hit Sale allowed through six innings.
In the fourth inning, Chicago finally got to Hernandez. Tyler Saladino led off with a single, and scored right after on Jose Abreu's double to right-center field. Like most Abreu liners to that gap, the ball tailed away from the center fielderAustin Jackson came this close to making a sensational diving catch. Instead, he missed it, and it was 1-0 White Sox.
With a man on second, Melky Cabrera as the cleanup hitter ... bunted. At the time of this writing, I'm not entirely sure if it was called for by Robin Ventura or Cabrera did that on his own. While the sacrifice was successful moving Abreu to third base, it's still the wrong decision, and it looked even worse when Avisail Garcia and Adam LaRoche struck out, leaving Abreu stuck at third base to end the inning.
The next inning, Alexei Ramirez led off with a single just like Saladino did the previous inning. Ramirez moved up to second thanks to a Hernandez wild pitch during Tyler Flowers' at-bat, which culminated in a grounder to the hole on the left side. Marte made the play to his right while Ramirez went for third, so Marte attempted to throw out him out at third base. Typically, this would have ended in an another White Sox TOOTBLAN, but thanks to a nifty slide, Ramirez was safe at third base and Flowers recorded an infield hit. Ramirez then scored thanks to Adam Eaton for a 2-0 White Sox lead.
Chicago kept the offense going against "The King" in the sixth, with the dread leadoff walk to Cabrera. Not known for his ability to steal bases, Cabrera grabbed his second stolen base of the year thanks to Hernandez's slow delivery. In the same at-bat, Garcia collected another infield single with a chopper back to Hernandez, who paid more attention to Cabrera at second than making the throw to first.
The Sox almost spoiled that opportunity, as LaRoche struck out and Ramirez flied out to center field to keep the runners on first and second. With two outs, Carlos Sanchez pulled through with a double down the right-field line, scoring both Cabrera and Garcia. Sanchez was thrown out at third in his attempt to stretch the double into a triple, but the White Sox gave Sale a four-run cushion heading into the sixth.
For Sale, it was yet again another 1-2-3 inning. After six innings, Sale only allowed the one "hit" and one walk, while striking out 11 batters. If official scorers were truly neutral, The Condor should have headed into the seventh with a no-hitter.
The scorer got to exhale in the seventh when Nelson Cruz led off with a single to right field. Then Robinson Cano singled. After a Franklin Gutierrez became strike out victim No. 12, Mark Trumbo did this:
Whoops. A changeup left up in the zone landed in the right-field seats and suddenly it was 4-3. Sale responded by striking out Austin Jackson and Jesus Montero, leaving the game with this pitching line: 7 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 14 K.
Before the pitching change was official, the offense picked up Sale again by scoring four more runs in the eighth, which included back-to-back walks with the bases loaded to Sanchez and Flowers. Though it was unnecessary, the Sox tacked up three more in the ninth for the 11-4 win.
- Sanchez had himself a day: 2-for-4 with four runs batted in. Flowers even had three RBIs himself, giving the Sox seven out of the last two spots in the order.
- Hernandez pitched much better compared to his last start, but the White Sox continue to give him trouble. He is now 4-6 in 17 games started against Chicago.
- Chris Sale has 222 strikeouts in 2015, just four away from his previous career high of 226 in 2013 and just 47 strikeouts away from the franchise record of 269 by Ed Walsh in 1908.