Chris Sale pitched like an ace when the White Sox desperately needed him.
With the team sitting one game below .500, fading further behind American League Central-leading Cleveland and facing an overused back end of the bullpen, Sale used 99 pitches to cover eight strong innings in a 5-2 victory over the Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field. Sale became MLB's first 13-game winner this season, improving to 13-2, and matched his win total from last year.
Sale has first-half starts lined up against the Astros most likely Saturday and against the Braves the following Friday, but he still would be available to start for the AL in the All-Star Game presented by MasterCard in San Diego if chosen.
"With the way the bullpen was, he was fantastic today," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "Like yesterday, the ball was going to carry and it was going to be a tough day to pitch, but again, he was fantastic."
"Just to have guys in my corner that believe in me like that, it gives me the confidence to keep going out there and doing what I got to do," Sale said. "I'm not here to try to prove anything to anybody."
Sale struck out seven, walked two and yielded five hits, including home runs from Troy Tulowitzki and Junior Lake in the eighth to break up the shutout. The left-hander, who has been an All-Star in all four seasons that he has been a starter, has never won more than 17 in a season. David Robertson worked the ninth for his 20th save (10th in a row).
"He's one of the better pitchers in the game, stuff-wise, and he was tough on us," said Tulowitzki of Sale. "In the eighth, he made a couple mistakes. We took some good swings, but he was a little too much today."
Marcus Stroman took the loss, allowing four runs on seven hits over five innings. He struck out four and walked four, and the Blue Jays have lost four of his last five starts. J.B. Shuckadded an important insurance run in the eighth with his second home run in as many days, marking the first time in his career he has homered in back-to-back games.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Leading with the long ball:Tim Anderson has yet to draw a walk this year, but he has certainly proven to be an explosive offensive force. Anderson hit one of the seven solo homers against the Blue Jays on Saturday and followed that up with another home run leading off the fifth Sunday. Anderson has seven multi-hit games in the 16 he has played.
"It felt normal. I'm getting kind of used to it," Anderson said. "I feel like I'm getting in a good groove. I'm kind of finding myself and make adjustments."
Stroman struggles: After losing reliever Gavin Floyd to the disabled list prior to the game, the Blue Jays could have used a start from Stroman that lasted at least six innings. Instead, he left after five trailing 4-0. After retiring the side in order in the first, Stroman allowed traffic on the basepaths in each of his next four frames, throwing just 54 of 91 pitches for strikes.More >
"I know it didn't look like it, but I felt much better out there," Stroman said. "My sinker was where it needed to be, pretty much, for the most part of the game. I made a mechanical adjustment and it probably had a little something to do with [the walks], but my stuff felt great. It's just a matter of honing in that mechanical issue that I changed and being more consistent with it going forward."
Starting with the small ball: The White Sox opened the scoring off of Stroman by pushing two across in the third. The first run of that inning scored on Adam Eaton's safety squeeze, bringing home Tyler Saladino, who made a great slide to beat Stroman's throw. Melky Cabrera, who had three hits, singled home Anderson with the second run.
"We're going to have to do that," Ventura said. "We're going to hit some homers, but we're also going to have to score with the small stuff and be able to capitalize on it."
Sticking with it: A nice play by Josh Donaldson helped Stroman escape the second unscathed despite allowing two hits and a walk. After back-to-back singles started the inning, Cabrera was thrown out at third by catcher Russell Martin trying to advance on a pitch in the dirt. Donaldson's initial tag, made between his legs while straddling the base, missed. His second attempt, when Cabrera slid past the base, recorded the inning's first out. Stroman later induced an inning-ending double play.
QUOTABLE "It's starting to liven up again in here and really a lot of energy." -- Shuck, on the White Sox winning five of their last seven
"This is what we needed. Stuff like this is what makes you turn the corner." -- Sale
RETURN TO WINNING WAYS The White Sox have won consecutive series against the Red Sox and Blue Jays. The last time the White Sox won two straight series was from April 22-27, when they swept the Rangers and Toronto.
WHAT'S NEXT Blue Jays:Marco Estrada (5-3, 2.70 ERA) will start for the Blue Jays on Monday at Coors Field. Estrada, who lost his last outing, has thrown seven straight quality starts. Tulowitzki will return to Colorado for the first time since the Rockies traded him to Toronto last season. First pitch is scheduled for 8:40 p.m. ET.
White Sox: After a team off-day Monday, Jose Quintana (5-7, 3.04 ERA) takes the mound to start a three-game series against the last-place Twins on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Quintana has six losses and two no-decisions over his last eight starts.