SEATTLE -- Chris Sale had quite the encore on Friday night.
The White Sox left-hander effectively used all three pitches to follow up his 15-strikeout performance against the Cubs with 14 more against the Seattle Mariners in an 11-4 victory in front of 35,770 at Safeco Field.
Sale outpitched Felix Hernandez and Carlos Sanchez knocked in a career-high four runs and Tyler Flowers drove in three as the White Sox poured it on late against the Mariners bullpen. The left-hander’s 29 strikeouts since Sunday is a franchise-record for two starts.
“When he’s got command of two pitches it’s tough, much less three like today for the most part,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “That’s the kind of stuff you can do when it’s all clicking for him.”
Working with an effective changeup/slider/fastball combo, Sale didn’t take long to establish he was game for the showdown with The King in his court.
After Ketel Marte led off the game with a friendly-scored double off the web of Avisail Garcia’s glove, Sale made easy work of Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano, striking all three out. Sale struck out one batter each in innings two through four and then picked up a head of steam in the fifth when he whiffed Mark Trumbo, Austin Jackson and Jesus Montero.
Sale notched the 30th double-digit strikeout performance of his career, including the 12th this season, when he got Marte swinging in the sixth and finished the inning with another of Seager.
Sale threw 20 of 26 changeups for strikes, 20 of 28 sliders and 39 of 56 fastballs. He also had 22 swings and misses.
“He can get caught up in it, trying to strike people out,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He knows he can do it. But you have to be able to sit there and pick apart each guy individually and they’re not all the same and he’s been pretty even with what he’s throwing. It’s not just the slider, It’s the change up, fastball on some guys. Just great stuff.”
Sale found trouble in the seventh inning -- he allowed a three-run homer to Trumbo to cut the lead to 4-3 -- but it didn’t slow him down. Cruz started the inning with Seattle’s first legitimate hit, a single to right and Cano followed with a single. Sale struck out Franklin Gutierrez for the first out but left a 3-2 changeup up and Trumbo blasted it out to right center.
But Sale battled back as he struck out Austin Jackson on a 1-2 slider and blew a 2-2 fastball past Jesus Montero, both on swings. Of Sale’s 29 strikeouts in the past two games, 24 have come via swings and misses.
“All your great pitchers, that’s what they do, they turn it up a notch when they need to,” Flowers said. “In big situations, find a way to execute pitches, always have a little bit left in the tank.”
Sale threw strikes on 79 of 110 pitches (71.8 percent) and allowed four hits and three earned runs in seven innings.
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Sale, who has 222 strikeouts this season, four shy of his single-season mark, finished one shy of becoming one of four pitchers in baseball history with 30 over two games along with Dwight Gooden, Rogers Clemens and Pedro Martinez.
Though Sale has been compared to the greats all season, including Randy Johnson, he’s tried not to get too caught up in his own hype. On Friday he deferred credit to Flowers for his guidance and to the White Sox offense for continuing to add to the lead after Seattle got within a run.
“I felt pretty good,” Sale said. “Felt like I had pretty command of my changeup, I was able to throw that early on and get it in there for a strike. I feel like my slider has been getting a little better over the last few starts.
“It’s fun. I definitely appreciate it and I know what it is. But it’s something I’ll look back on here at the end of the season and probably appreciate it a little bit more then. We’ve got to grind now. Now’s not the time to sit and look at the shiny stuff, we’ve got a long road ahead of us.”