CLEVELAND -- The extra outs given away by the White Sox have continued to haunt them in a variety of ways in 2015.
An error on a routine ground ball on Friday night extended the third inning on Chris Sale and the White Sox ace couldn’t stop the snowball.
Carlos Santana blasted a grand slam off Sale with two outs as part of a six-run outburst and the Cleveland Indians went on to route the White Sox 12-1 at Progressive Field. Sale struck out nine in seven innings but also allowed seven runs (one earned) as he lost his third start in a row. The White Sox finished 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position as they lost for the third time in four games.
“I’m having a hard time this year staying away from the big inning it seems like,” Sale said. “All that stuff involved, it is what it is. I have to be the guy to go out there and cut that off and pick my guys up.”
After he faced the minimum through two innings, Sale had to work overtime in the third. He yielded a one-out single to Roberto Perez but appeared as if he’d get out of trouble with a routine double play as Jose Ramirez hit a grounder right at Carlos Sanchez only for the rookie to boot it for an error.
Sale still appeared to have found an escape route when he struck out American League rookie of the year candidate Francisco Lindor on three pitches. But Micah Aviles kept the rally alive as he blooped a 0-1 slider into center just off the outstretched glove of Sanchez to give Cleveland a 1-0 lead. Michael Brantley followed with an opposite-field single to make it 2-0 and Sale walked Ryan Raburn to load the bases. Then he caught too much of the plate with an 0-1 fastball to Santana, who drove it 403 feet to left center to put the Indians ahead by six runs.
“We don’t turn the double play, that becomes a big one at that point and after that they just kept the inning going,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It kind of got away from him.”
Sale -- who allowed eight hits and walked three -- returned and got back on track as he posted three scoreless innings after the third and didn’t allow an earned run until Lindor hit an opposite-field homer in the seventh.
“I thought he threw the ball pretty well,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “Before the error he was still throwing pretty well but after the error he kind of lost command and all that. But then the next inning he’s right back to normal.”
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The left-hander’s nine strikeouts gives him 259 this season, which moves him within 10 of Ed Walsh’s franchise-mark set in 1908.
With likely at least two starts left, Sale should easily shatter Walsh’s mark. But he’s unconcerned with his strikeout total despite the epic season. He’d prefer to be winning and in the midst of a pennant race instead.
Though the team’s defense has shored up over the past few months, it hurt the White Sox early on as evidenced by 57 unearned runs allowed this season. The White Sox allowed 71 unearned runs in 2014.
The White Sox offense had even less success against Cody Anderson despite putting 10 men on base against him. They had two men on in each of the first four innings only to come up empty and didn’t score until Melky Cabrera’s solo homer in the fifth inning.
But none of that matters to Sale -- even if nobody picked him up.
“You’ve got to keep fighting,” Sale said. “You can’t let up. They’ve played myself and us tough for as long as I can remember. You’ve got to bear down and not let things escalate like they did.”