The Houston Astros were no match for Chris Sale on Monday night.
Even the rain didn’t have a chance.
The White Sox ace worked around rain delays of 25 and 38 minutes to strike out 14 batters en route to a 3-1 victory in front of 17,352 at U.S. Cellular Field.
After he kept loose throwing in the batting cage before and during the game, Sale established a new White Sox record with his fourth straight double-digit strikeout performance. The three-time All Star limited the Astros to five hits over eight innings of one-run ball and improved to 6-2 as Avisail Garcia homered for the third time in four games.
“(Sale) was fantastic,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s really been on a roll, and some of the numbers he’s starting to rack up are impressive, especially how long this organization has been here.
“Even getting up there in the last inning, going out there, there’s just a different mentality with him when it gets late in the game now.”
[MORE WHITE SOX: Ten years after: Qualls revisits site of Konerko's grand slam]
With two outs in the eighth inning and the White Sox ahead by two, Ventura briefly visit Sale on the mound. Last year’s American League batting champ Jose Altuve was up with a man on second, and Sale had already thrown 115 pitches. Four pitches later, Sale whiffed Altuve on an 83-mph slider to end the inning — the first time he’d struck out the side.
In his last four starts, Sale has 49 strikeouts and four walks in 30 2/3 innings. He has allowed five runs (four earned) and 17 hits and won three of four.
But to get that far, Sale worked around a 25-minute rain delay prior to the start of the game and a 38-minute stoppage in the bottom of the third. He said he threw 30 pitches total in the cage between the two postponements.
“I can see how it could be a distraction, but you just try to do your best to stay there and stay fresh,” Sale said. “Keep it loose and try to keep your arm loose.
“Things happen. You can't control the weather or anything like that. Play the cards you're dealt, really.”
[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox select Vandy RHP Carson Fulmer with eighth pick]
Leading 1-0, Sale was dealt a tough hand in the fourth inning on a series of well-placed Astros hits.
But he pitched out of it anyway.
Jonathan Villar singled and advanced to third on Altuve’s single. Altuve also moved into scoring position as Melky Cabrera slipped in left field, allowing the speedy second baseman to race to second base. But Sale struck out Evan Gattis with a 98-mph fastball and Chris Carter with a 99-mph heater. He nearly escaped the jam unscathed, but Carlos Correa beat out an infield single — though it took another delay as umpires needed a 50-second replay review to determine the rookie was safe at first, which allowed Houston's only run to score. Sale got Marwin Gonzalez to ground out to end the threat and took over, retiring 13 of the last 14 batters he faced, including eight strikeouts.
“Even with the odd (rain delay) in the third, he doesn’t check out,” Ventura said. “He really mentally stayed in it, and it’s hard to do that, especially you get a couple of rain delays like that. He found a way to stay right in the mentality and the moment of it and not really shy away from wanting to go back out there.”
[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get a Chris Sale jersey right here]
The White Sox did just enough against Astros rookie Lance McCullers.
Cabrera gave them a 1-0 lead in the second inning with an RBI single, his first since the first game of the May 28 doubleheader.
After Houston had tied it, Abreu singled and advanced to second on Adam LaRoche’s fly out, and Garcia homered to right to give the White Sox a 3-1 lead. Sale cited Garcia’s alert nature after the rain delay as a huge factor in what he determined to be, “the most important play of the game.”
“We’re sitting in here doing all this stuff, going through the weather delay and all that,” Sale said. “It’s huge for him to come and do that.”