Chris Sale was fantastic again on Wednesday night.
His offense was not.
The White Sox couldn’t keep pace against Rick Porcello and the Boston Red Sox. Porcello and two relievers combined on a six-hitter and Travis Shaw homered off Nate Jones to send the White Sox to a 3-0 loss in front of 17,812 at U.S. Cellular Field. Sale struck out seven over seven scoreless innings but didn’t factor in the decision for the White Sox, who stranded runners in scoring position in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. Shaw blasted a two-run homer with two outs in the eighth off Jones, the first runs the reliever has allowed since he came off the disabled list.
The White Sox lost ground in the wild-card race and now trail by 5 1/ 2 games with 37 to play.
“This is definitely crunch time --- a time to get going,” Sale said. “We know what we are up against, but you know this is baseball. This is sports. This is a crazy game. Anything can happen. We aren’t giving up on the season. We definitely aren’t going to give up on ourselves or each other. This is a good group of guys. We are pulling from the same rope. Pick each other up and keep going.”
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Coming off 29 strikeouts in his previous two starts, Sale kept going even though he labored early against the Red Sox. He loaded the bases in the third inning and would have in the fourth as well had it not been for a pickoff of Rusney Castillo.
But Sale, who established a personal single-season high for strikeouts when he got Shaw swinging to start the fourth, pitched out of both jams andpicked up steam. He retired 10 of the last 11 batters he faced, pitching efficiently down the stretch.
Sale allowed five hits, walked two, hit a batter and struck out seven in a 119-pitch effort.
Over his last four starts, Sale has a 1.59 ERA over 28 1/3 inningswith 43 strikeouts and seven walks. He’s allowed five runs (all earned) and 15 hits.
“Playing behind him is a treat,” White Sox third baseman Tyler Saladino said. “You’re watching one of the best pitchers in the game. He does his thing out there. It’s kind of like if he lets a guy get on base it does two things. It gets you going even more because maybe a weak ground ball you can get that double play for him because he does so much for us, I guess you could say. If a guy gets on base against him you’re even more ready, but at the same time he has the ability to get right back after the next guy. It’s just awesome watching him out there.”
Not as fun? Watching the White Sox struggleagainst Porcello, who brought his best stuff.
He didn’t allow a hit until Melky Cabrera hit a ground-rule double with two outs in the fourth inning. But Cabrera, who had three hits in fourat-bats, was stranded as Avisail Garcia flew out to right center.
Adam LaRoche doubled in the fifth inning and Carlos Sanchez had a one-out infield single. But Tyler Flowers flew out to shallow right and Josh Rutledge made a nice play on Tyler Saladino’s grounder to save run and strand the pair.
The White Sox also stranded two runners in the sixth inning as Garcia struck out and LaRoche flew out.
Porcello allowed five hits and struck out five over seven innings.
Robbie Ross Jr. and Junichi Tazawa each had a scoreless inning for the Red Sox.
“Any time you have Sale out there and he's throwing up zeroes, you want to scratch something across to get something going,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “So yeah, that becomes frustrating.”
“We couldn't get anything going. We finally got in some situations and got someguys in scoring position but that's as sharp as we've seen him, definitely. He was matching Chris, if not bettering him.”