As the White Sox continue to plummet to the bottom of the American League, manager Robin Ventura has seen at least one positive emerge from his team’s eight-game losing streak.
After flirting with a perfect game and striking out 14 over eight shutout innings Friday — and after David Robertson blew the save by allowing two runs in the ninth — Sale defended his teammates and proclaimed his club’s skid would come to a stop soon.
The White Sox offense scored a lone run on Friday — coming on a Tyler Flowers home run — and haven’t supported its pitching staff recently, posting a .431 OPS over the last seven days. This is a team that’s last in baseball in FanGraphs’ defensive and baserunning ratings. Only three position players (Jose Abreu, Geovany Soto and Adam LaRoche) have a positive WAR.
With all that in mind, Ventura has come away impressed with how Sale — who’s been arguably the best pitcher in baseball over the last month — has handled his team’s malaise.
“The way it’s going, it’s easy to sit there and point fingers,” Ventura said. “That’s his maturity level. His leadership qualities are coming out. You are looking at a guy that is in his fourth year of starting. This is what is taking shape. This is the guy that he has become.”
The White Sox have both of Sale’s starts by 2-1 scorelines on this losing streak, which began right after the team swept a three-game home series against the first-place Astros. The 26-year-old left-hander joined Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez as the only pitchers in baseball history with 10 or more strikeouts in five consecutive games. He’s averaging 12.08 strikeouts per nine innings, putting him on pace to be the first starter since Johnson in 2001 to average more than a dozen strikeouts per nine innings in a season.
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And yet, it hasn’t been good enough. Sale’s done his part to be the stopper in the White Sox rotation, the kind of guy whose presence on the mound should mean a losing streak never gets past five games.
Sale knows he’s in Chicago for the long haul, with his incredibly team-friendly contract running through 2017 with club options for 2018 and 2019. He’s not out of his mid-20’s but is already in his sixth major league season, No. 4 as a starter. And he’s developed into not only the ace of the White Sox rotation, but a guy who will support his teammates in the clubhouse even if they’re not supporting him with runs on the field.
“It’s impressive,” Ventura said. “Not only the numbers that he’s putting up but in difficult times, and he’s had difficult times just like (Jose Quintana) has had and this is the result of it. You are seeing a team guy first and he goes out and pitches. It’s also helping with his pitching. It’s what he can control.”