Didn’t take long Monday to determine a record-setting performance wasn’t in the cards for Chris Sale.
Not only are the right-handed hitting heavy Toronto Blue Jays tough on lefties, they brought an aggressive approach to the plate against Sale, who was attempting to establish a major league record with his ninth straight start of at least 10 strikeouts. Sale -- who pitched a complete game in a 4-2 White Sox victory -- struck out six and settled for a tie with Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez with eight consecutive double-digit strikeout performances.
“They were pretty aggressive, so it wasn’t really a big strikeout night for him,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “But as far as command and everything, he had everything. He missed a couple of times, and they got him. And they’re a powerful lineup. That lineup’s not a joke.”
After he struck out 97 batters in his previous eight outings, Sale didn’t pick up his first strikeout until the third inning. Five of Sale’s first six outs came via ground balls. Sale seemed to gain some momentum in the fourth and fifth innings with three straight strikeouts but couldn’t sustain it as the Blue Jays put 10 two-strike pitches in play.
“Usually guys want to work the count and get the count high to get him out of the ballgame earlier,” center fielder Adam Eaton said. “Here, with the streak on the line, they came out swinging the bats.”
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Ventura didn’t see much different in Toronto’s approach. The Blue Jays entered the game with four hitters with at least 12 home runs in the lineup and another three with seven apiece.
“They’ve always been that way,” Ventura said.
Sale threw strikes on 77 of 108 pitches. Though Sale wouldn’t have minded to move past Martinez with a ninth straight game of at least 10 strikeouts, he wasn’t upset, either. After the White Sox won only four of his previous eight starts, Sale was happier about his team’s victory.
“Those guys rake,” Sale said. “They came out swinging and they swing with purpose. “They’ve got a lot of guys that put the bat on the ball.”
“It’s one of those things, it’s cool. It’s fine. But we won the game and I’m not gonna pout at all.”