PHILADELPHIA -- Chris Sale’s Cy Young chances took a hit on Wednesday night.
A slight favorite to win the award for the American League’s top pitcher according to one oddsmaker, Sale had his worst start in two months and second shortest of the season as the Philadelphia Phillies pounded the White Sox 8-3 in front of 21,703 at Citizens Bank Park. Sale’s six earned runs allowed in four innings were the most he has yielded since the Atlanta Braves tagged him for eight on July 8. The effort caused Sale’s earned-run average to rise from 3.03 to 3.23.
“I don’t know where it started, but I just never got rolling tonight,” Sale said. “Couldn’t find a groove.
“Bad night. Frustrating. Wish I could have been better. I wasn’t. It would have been nice to sneak out with a win, but I didn’t give them a chance from the first pitch.”
Courtesy of a fantastic 11-run start since the All-Star break, Sale was listed as the favorite among the AL Cy Young candidates at 8-to-5 when Bovada released odds on Wednesday. Sale, who had a 2.52 ERA in that span, held a slight edge over Cleveland’s Corey Kluber and Boston’s Rick Porcello, both of whom were listed at 2-to-1. Toronto’s J.A. Happ (10-to-1) and Detroit’s Justin Verlander (20-to-1) rounded out the candidates.
But even with an early 1-0 lead provided by an Adam Eaton solo home run to start the game, Sale didn’t look like much of a top nominee on Wednesday. The five-time All-Star allowed four of the first five batters he faced to reach base, including consecutive doubles to Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp to fall behind 3-1.
The damage continued against Sale, who entered Wednesday in the top five in Wins Above Replacement (5.2, first), ERA (second), Fielding Independent Pitching (3.32, third), wins (16, fourth), innings (210 2/3, second) and strikeouts (215, fourth).
Joseph tagged him again in the third inning, this time for a two-run homer and a 5-1 Phillies lead. Roman Quinn, one of three batters Sale hit on Wednesday, scored on Joseph’s homer. Cesar Hernandez also tripled in a run in the fourth inning as Sale fell behind 6-1.
“I don’t play for stuff like (the award),” Sale said. “I’m here to win games. Not to win any trophies or whatever else. I want to win games and I wanted to win tonight.”
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Sale received an endorsement from manager Robin Ventura before the contest. Ventura doesn’t think his team’s 72-80 record should be a factor in the vote, which will be revealed in early November.
“He comes to mind,” Ventura said. “You start looking around the league, especially in our division, you can look at some guys in Cleveland. You can look at maybe somebody in Texas. There are enough guys that go around that have numbers. Porcello in Boston comes to mind.
“I’m partial (to Sale) because I see him all the time. I see what he does. I see how important he is. Regardless of where we’re at record-wise, I realize how important he is.”
Perhaps the most surprising part of Sale’s start on Wednesday was its brevity.
Sale, who has four top-six Cy Young finishes in his career, had pitched at least eight innings in his last six starts, the longest such streak by a White Sox pitcher since Jack McDowell did it seven straight games in 1994.
He leads the majors with six complete games this season.
While Wednesday’s effort is his shortest of the season since May 24, when he went 3 1/3 innings at home against the Cleveland Indians, Sale has already established a career high for innings pitched. Sale has thrown 214 2/3 innings this season, surpassing his previous high of 214 1/3 (2013).
“He’s better this year for me in a lot of ways than he has been in the past,” Ventura said.
As long as he feels up to it, Sale could receive two more starts before the season is done. Earlier this week, Ventura said he would let his pitchers make their turns as long as they physically felt up to the task. Sale’s next turn unofficially comes on Tuesday at home against the Tampa Bay Rays. He also could start on the final day of the season at home against the Minnesota Twins.
Kluber also started on Wednesday, allowing two earned runs and striking out nine in 6 1/3 innings.
“Whatever they got for me,” Sale said. “I go when my name is called. However many that is I’ll show up for them.”
Todd Frazier and Alex Avila also homered for the White Sox in the loss.