He wasn’t pitcher perfect Sunday night, but the reeling White Sox will gladly settle for pretty darn good.
Let’s face it, the Sox have been hard to watch over the first few laps of the marathon season, so Chris Sale’s 1-hit gem against the Angels was almost an unexpected treat.
“I knew warming up in the bullpen,” Sale said after pitching the first complete-game shutout of his career — a 3-0 victory over Los Angeles at U.S. Cellular Field.
“I felt loose and my arm felt good tonight. Warming up in the bullpen, I felt like I was creating some good stuff, and I just wanted to transfer that out to the field.”
Transfer he did, and Sale was working on a perfect game until Mike Trout got around on a 2-0 fastball and singled cleanly up the middle with one out in the seventh inning.
Chris Iannetta reached on shortstop Alexei Ramirez’s error leading off the ninth before Luis Jimenez grounded into a double play, so Sale faced just one batter over the minimum 27.
The 24-year-old lefty also had 7 strikeouts and disposed of L.A. with 98 pitches.
“When he’s on, he’s unbelievable,” Angels right fielder Josh Hamilton said. “He mixes his pitches well. He can throw the 89 (mph) little two-seamer sinker, arm-side run, whatever, and then he can pump 94-95. It’s almost like you’ve got to give up one to kind of focus on something else.
“So, pick off-speed or pick heater or whatever. You’ll probably see some swings like I never picked one. Preaching, but not doing it.”
When Sale gets into an extended groove like he did Sunday night, few hitters in baseball can pick a good pitch to hit off him.
Ramirez made a standout defensive play to retire Alberto Callaspo leading off the seventh inning. But outside of Trout’s single, the Angels never mounted a threat.
“His changeup was very good,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “His fastball command was there. He used the occasional slider in there, but his fastball-changeup combo was really working well on both sides of the plate.”
Sale said he started thinking about making history in the “fourth or fifth inning.” He also said he threw a no-hitter in a high school game shortened to 5 innings by rain.
“I said it early, if it was meant to be it would have happened,” said Sale (4-2). “It just didn’t happen. No big deal. Honestly I don’t come here, I didn’t wake up this morning and say, ‘I want to throw a perfect game or a no-hitter.’
“I come to the ballpark every day when I’m pitching and just want to keep my team in the game and win this game. We did.”
Sale’s big effort and Ramirez’s clutch 2-run single off Los Angeles starter C.J. Wilson with two outs in the seventh inning prevented the Angels from pulling off a three-game sweep. Alex Rios followed Ramirez with an RBI double to give the White Sox a little more breathing room.
“You need a guy that’s a stopper that can put an end to it,” manager Robin Ventura said of Sale. “It’s just a great effort, and he’s that guy. He is.
“When a guy pitches like this, you don’t want to waste it, so it’s nice to break through and not only get the 2 (runs), then you get the add-on with Alex.”
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