Backed by Tim Anderson and Todd Frazier homers, Chris Sale threw eight innings of one-hit ball in his second-best start of the year.
Then David Robertson blew a 3-0 lead with two outs, giving up a run-scoring single to Kyle Seager and a three-run bomb to pinch-hitting Adam Lind.
I didn’t start writing the recap until after the game ended, but this is what a modified lede would’ve looked like. Sale was great and the struggling White Sox offense did enough against Wade LeBlanc. It should’ve been enough to win.
Alas, they lost. And it’s nobody’s fault but the ninth-inning battery, as Robertson got beat on his cutter.
While Sale was only at 100 pitches through eight, he had shown signs of breaking. He plunked two batters in the seventh inning, then walked two batters in the eighth (including Shawn O’Malley on four pitches). Going to Robertson in the ninth inning of a 3-0 game was the right call.
Robertson just blew it, with some help from Dioner Navarro. After the first two at-bats of the inning ended on his curveball -- a Franklin Gutierrez single and a Robinson Cano fielder’s choice -- he didn't throw one during a six-pitch walk to Nelson Cruz. (Compounding problems, Navarro’s mitt got taken for a ride on a potential strike three.)
With Dae-Ho Lee representing the tying run at the plate, Robertson went back to his curve with success — two swinging strikes and a pitch just out of the zone (that Navarro flopped his mitt over for). The breaking ball was Robertson’s best pitch, as the next two hitters proved when he went away from it.
First, Seager lined a 2-1 cutter to center field to spoil the shutout. Then, after Lind swung over a first-pitch curve, Dioner Navarro called for a high cutter. Robertson threw it high, but also two feet farther inside than Navarro set up. Lind turned on it and parked it just over the wall in right center to end the game. Robertson’s cutter was lousy, and Seattle was happy to pounce.
That’s how the Sox wasted what should’ve been Sale’s 15th win.
Sale spent the entire game pitching with a lead, as Anderson hit a 442-foot blast to the upper deck in left as the second batter of the game. Frazier added a two-run shot in the fourth.
The Mariners never really challenged Sale, as their deep flyballs just didn’t have the same oomph. Melky Cabrera and J.B. Shuck got a little bit of exercise, but nothing looked particularly threatening off the bat.
Sale only made his own trouble in the later innings, almost as if he was bored. He ended up allowing six baserunners on the evening after that late-inning wildness, but all in all, it was a fine return to form. He finished with a game score of 86, which is second to his shutout against the Rays on April 15. He threw like a stopper, but the Sox can't stop themselves from disappointing.
Instead of the White Sox returning to .500 behind some classic Condor, they have lost five straight. Instead of kicking a competing wild card team behind them, they slid behind Seattle on a night when Detroit, Kansas City and the Yankees also won. The Sox are now six games back of the second wild card with five teams ahead of them.
*The Sox outhit the Mariners 11-4.
*Navarro snapped a 21 at-bat hitless streak with this:
Dioner Navarro snaps his 0-for-21 skid in thunderous fashion. pic.twitter.com/gFXf5bNsKi— Phenomenal Source (@SouthSideSox) July 19, 2016
*Speaking of struggling hitters, Avisail Garcia reached base three times with two singles and a walk, although he erased himself by getting thrown out in the eighth.