Chris Sale has showed a knack this year for living up to marquee matchups, as pitchers' duels with Corey Kluber and Mark Buehrle turned out to be among the most memorable games of the year.
His face-off with Chris Archer tonight, though, was not one of them.
Sale's night started rough (a first-inning two-run homer) and ended worse (leaving one out into a five-run sixth, and with a play that was stunning in its all-around failure), while Archer sailed through seven innings of perfunctory two-run ball. As a result, the White Sox are 1-5 in their last six games, and this one was the fourth defeat by blowout.
For a while, it appeared as though Sale might pitch respectably, even despite the early hole. The Rays converted two fastballs into homers -- one by Logan Forsythe in the first, another by Mikie Mahtook in the fifth -- for a 3-1 lead. His changeup and slider looked sharp as ever, and he shifted off his fastball after some early failures.
Then Sale walked Forsythe to start the sixth, and the wheels slowly fell off. Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a single, and then Richie Shaffer walked on five pitches to load the bases for Mahtook.
After a mound visit from Don Cooper, Sale struck out Mahtook with a slider for a big first out. But then he fell behind 2-0 to Kevin Kiermaier, and a third straight fastball from Sale ended up in center field for a run-scoring single that counted for two runs thanks to a three-part failure.
The first was the least of the offenses, a non-committal throw from Adam Eaton that took forever getting to home plate. The second was more egregious, as Flowers somehow let it sneak through his legs despite being on one knee, ready for the roller. But then Sale wasn't even backing up the play, so it rolled all the way to the screen and Cabrera scored.
That's how Sale's night ended, and Daniel Webb allowed Sale's two runners to score to put seven runs on his tab over 5⅓ innings. Sale struck out nine -- hey, two more than Archer -- but he allowed 10 baserunners (six hits, three walks, one HBP).
So the Rays led 8-1 after that, and neither Webb nor Matt Albers helped much. The Sox were left to settle for some individual moments, such as:
*Tyler Saladino cutting the Rays' 2-0 lead in half with a no-doubt solo shot to left off Archer. He went 2-for-4 in front of Jose Abreu, who struck out three times over a hitless four at-bats.
*Avisail Garcia hit his first homer since June 8, and he pulled it. Sure, it was in the ninth inning down nine off Kirby Yates, but ... he pulled a homer.
*Trayce Thompson made his debut against Archer in the seventh. He fell behind with a sketchy strike call, which set up a strikeout, but he now has a major-league page on Baseball-Reference.com, so that's cool.