Chris Sale’s All-Star tune-up on Friday night didn’t go according to plan.
In search of his 15th victory, Sale got rocked by baseball’s worst team and the White Sox couldn’t keep pace in an 11-8 loss to the Atlanta Braves in front of 26,199 at U.S. Cellular Field.
Sale — who sought to become only the fourth pitcher since 1990 with 15 wins before the All-Star break — allowed eight earned runs and 10 hits in five innings, including three homers. He also yielded a career-worst seven extra-base hits. Todd Frazier and Adam Eaton homered and the White Sox also turned their third triple play of the season in the loss.
“Pretty embarrassing,” Sale said. “It’s about as bad as I possibly think I’ve been in a while.
“I definitely would have liked to have been better tonight for the guys. We score eight runs — you got to have that game.”
Not since Toronto’s David Wells in 2000 had an American League pitcher headed to the break with 15 victories.
It didn’t take long to establish Sale (14-3) was off.
Freddie Freeman took advantage of a windy, warm evening with an opposite-field solo homer in the first. An inning later, Sale’s former batterymate Tyler Flowers put Atlanta back ahead with a two-run homer to left-center field. Flowers also had one of three straight two-out, run-scoring doubles off Sale in a four-run fifth inning in which the Braves pulled ahead 8-4. Flowers also reached against Sale on a hit by pitch in the fourth inning.
“He looked mortal,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I don't think it was as sharp and they got some good swings at him. There was some hard contact, a couple homers, it just looked like it wasn't his best stuff. There was some velocity there you'd see every once in a while. But mostly if you're missing in the middle, they're going to hit it.”
Of the 26 batters Sale faced, 13 reached base.
Flowers, who caught every Sale start in the last two seasons, noticed how much the left-hander was off the mark.
“(Sale) wasn’t as sharp as he usually is,” Flowers said. “These are the kinds of days you hope to face guys of that caliber and just try to be ready for the mistake and take advantage of it.”
It could have been even worse.
Leading 4-3, Sale put the first two batters on base in the top of the third inning. But Freeman’s soft liner to shortstop bounced in front of Tim Anderson, who trapped the ball, tagged the lead runner at second base, stepped on the bag and fired to first in time for a triple play.
The White Sox also turned triple plays on April 22 and May 10. They’re the first team since both the Boston Red Sox and Oakland A’s in 1979 to have turned three triple plays in a season.
It still wasn’t enough.
Atlanta added scored three times off reliever Chris Beck in the sixth inning to extend its lead to 11-6.
The output was enough to outdo the White Sox, who early on took advantage of a porous Braves defense.
Down 1-0, Melky Cabrera singled in a run in the first inning. The White Sox rebounded from a two-run deficit in the second inning on consecutive one-out doubles by Carlos Sanchez and J.B. Shuck. Sanchez advanced to third when center fielder Ender Inciarte’s throw ended up in short right field. Shuck reached when his pop up to left-center field harmlessly fell between four Atlanta defenders. An RBI single by Anderson tied it at 3 and Jose Abreu’s sac fly put the White Sox ahead 4-3.
Eaton and Frazier both hit solo home runs off Braves starter Matt Wisler in the fifth to get the White Sox within 8-6.
They also scored a run in the seventh on Frazier’s sac fly to pull within four and threatened to rally in the ninth. Abreu and Cabrera, who both reached three times each, singled to open the inning. A run scored when Frazier grounded into a double play, but the White Sox got no closer.
“This is a throwaway game,” Sale said. “This is one you are not going to get back. You just try not to, there’s nothing to take away from this game for personally. You just move on and keep grinding.”