If there is one White Sox player who has earned the right to hold his head high this season, it's Chris Sale.
The ace left-hander entered Sunday's rain-delayed start against the Indians ranked third in the American League with 207 strikeouts, fourth with a 1.04 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) and fifth with a 2.90 ERA. Sale also led the league with a 7.0 WAR (wins above replacement).
Scouting reportWhite Sox vs. Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field
TV: Comcast SportsNet Monday and Tuesday; WGN Wednesday
Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Pitching matchups: The White Sox' Erik Johnson (0-2) vs. Liam Hendricks (1-2) Monday at 7:10 p.m.; Jose Quintana (7-6) vs. Mike Pelfrey (5-12) Tuesday at 7:10 p.m.; John Danks (4-13) vs. Scott Diamond (5-11) Wednesday at 1:10 p.m.
At a glance: The White Sox wrap up a 10-game homestand in a series pitting the worst two teams in the AL Central. The Sox and Twins also are the two lowest-scoring teams in the American League. Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer (concussion) won't play in the series. The White Sox are 6-10 vs. Minnesota this season. In his first 2 starts with the Sox, Johnson has allowed 11 runs, only 5 of them earned.
Next: Detroit Tigers, Friday-Sunday at Comerica Park
-- Scot Gregor
The 24-year-old starting pitcher has a lot to be proud of, and Sale ranks his performance in September near the top of the accomplishment list.
Last season -- his first as a starter -- Sale was 2-3 with a 4.11 ERA in September. Before Sunday, he was 1-0 with a 1.76 ERA in 2 starts during the final month this year.
"I put a lot of emphasis on that," he said. "That's something that kind of bugged me last year. I was there for the first half to help this team and sputtered late and just kind of limped across the finish line.
"It's something that Coop (pitching coach Don Cooper) and I talked about since the off-season. It's sprinting across the finish line this year. Trying to finish up strong."
Sale obviously was off his game Sunday after a rain delay of 4 hours, 23 minutes, allowing 6 runs on 9 hits and 3 walks in 52⁄3 innings during the White Sox' 12th straight loss to Cleveland.
Looking ahead to next season, the Sox are cautiously optimistic based in large part on their starting pitching.
But take a closer look at the starters behind Sale, and there are reasons to worry.
There is little worry here, outside of wondering if the White Sox are ever going to score runs for Quintana.
The 24-year-old lefty ranks 17th in the AL with a 3.56 ERA and seventh with a 5.1 WAR, but he has 17 no decisions this season, a league record. Quintana also has made 6 starts pitching 7 or more scoreless innings without recording a win over the last two seasons.
He's holding up well in September (0-2, 2.40 ERA).
Another left-hander, John Danks, has disappointing numbers (4-13, 4.73 ERA), but better days might be ahead.
Danks is 13 months removed from shoulder surgery, and the complete recovery process checks in at 18 months. Ideally, the 28-year-old starter reports to spring training 100 percent healthy.
Danks has shown some flashes of his past success this year, namely back-to-back wins in August where he allowed 2 earned runs in 14 innings against Texas and Kansas City, but most of the season has been forgettable.
Still trying to overcome a fastball that tops out at 90-91 mph, Danks has been leaning on his changeup, cutter and curveball since returning to the Sox' rotation in late May.
He consistently has left all three pitches up in the strike zone, and Danks is tied for fifth in the AL with 28 home runs allowed.
Here's yet another left-hander in the White Sox' starting rotation, and like Sale last season, Santiago is having a rough September (0-1, 5.00 ERA).
On the plus side, Santiago's 3.53 ERA ranks 17th among AL pitchers with at least 140 innings. On the minus side, his 70 walks are the sixth-highest total in the league.
After getting shelled by Cleveland on Saturday, Rienzo brought up an interesting factoid -- this is the first season he has ever pitched in September.
The inexperience has been showing, and while Rienzo has a lethal curveball, he has issued too many home runs (10) and walks (27) in 50 innings with the Sox.
The White Sox' top pitching prospect looked very good at times during his first 2 starts, especially throwing an overpowering fastball and biting slider.
There is a chance Johnson breaks camp next spring as the No. 3 starter behind Sale and Quintana, but he still has plenty of growing to do, especially when it comes to consistently throwing strikes.