CINCINNATI -- The Chris Sale Lovefest is in full swing this week at the All-Star Game.
For two days, anyone and everyone participating in Tuesday night’s All-Star Game at Great American Ballpark has fawned over the White Sox ace, who earned a spot on the American League roster for a fourth straight season.
The superlatives have arrived at an almost-sickening pace for Sale, who is 8-4 with a 2.72 ERA this season and leads the AL in several pitching categories, including with 157 strikeouts. Now in his fourth season as a starting pitcher, Sale has made it clear to his fellow All-Stars he’s no fluke and he’s also a constant nightmare to face.
“I call him the praying mantis,” Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said. “He’s probably the nastiest pitcher in baseball, right-handed or left-handed.”
Seeing as they’re both lefties, Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis knows he’s in for a tough game any time Sale takes the mound. The two are friends and Kipnis feels fortunate to have four hits in 17 at-bats against Sale.
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“It sucks,” Kipnis said. “It’s not fun at all.
“See if can just get one off him today. See if I can scrape. He’s lengthy, it’s funky and it’s also 98 miles an hour and a curveball that starts behind me and it ends up a ball away. You’ve got to have an approach, you’ve got to eliminate one of his pitches and even after that you can’t miss when you guess right on it. He’s a tough guy to have success against.”
The hitters aren’t the ones offering praise and some of the highest comes from the only pitcher who has more strikeouts than Sale this season, Clayton Kershaw. A three-time Cy Young winner, Kershaw, who has 160 strikeouts for the Los Angeles Dodgers, has been seriously impressed with what he’s seen from Sale.
“Strikeouts aside, he’s dominant,” Kershaw said. “It’s really unbelievable. You should really thank your lucky stars if you get a hit against him. Just watching him and the stuff he’s featuring and that arm angle, I don’t know how you get a hit, honestly. Impressive.”
Sale is well aware what has been said about him and he’s appreciative. But he has never been big on self-promotion and tries to block out the attention as much he possible.
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“I know where it’s coming from,” Sale said. “These guys are the best players in the world and you definitely appreciate it, but at the same time I try not to listen to or think about that kind of stuff too much. I’m a big believer in karma and the baseball gods and if you let those things take over your game, it spirals pretty quickly. When you think your horse is a little higher than the next you get knocked off. I definitely appreciate it. It’s humbling to hear, but I try not to let all those things creep in.”
As Jones sees it, Sale has only made the volume louder with his outstanding pitching and the uncomfortable at-bats hitters must endure with him on the mound.
Jones is 4-for-11 with a home run against Sale. He said the key is to not wait around against the lanky lefty -- otherwise he could devour you.
“He throws everything at you and it’s probably 95 or 96, sharp slider, good changeup,” Jones said. “Hope he misses and swing. If you see one you like, hit it. Don’t try to work an at-bat, that’s a quick out.”