Chris Sale will establish a new career high when he takes the mound in Sunday’s regular season finale.
The White Sox ace is set to start one more time this season and in doing so will make a career-best 32nd turn. One of the top contenders for the American League Cy Young Award, Sale has already established career highs for complete games (six) and innings pitched (221 2/3). White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Thursday that Sale, who pitched on Tuesday, would start against the Minnesota Twins.
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“At first you can look at it like he doesn’t necessarily have to throw,” Ventura said. “But I think he wants to throw and that’s a good sign. He’s motivated to throw and just to go do it. We’re not doing it for numbers or anything, but he wants to throw. I think that’s part of his commitment to being a teammate and all that stuff. So we’ll have a pretty good lineup out there.”
As for what to expect from Sale, Ventura said: “It won’t be four or five (innings), but it won’t be nine. Well, if he has a no-hitter, it’s a possibility. If there’s something special there and his pitch count and everything and he’s feeling good, he would go. But for the most part he’s not going to go nine.”
Todd Frazier reached the 40-home run plateau on Wednesday night and now his eyes are trained on 100 RBIs.
Frazier’s seventh-inning solo home run not only extended his hitting streak to 12 games, it provided the game’s only offense in a 1-0 White Sox victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in front of 12,976 at U.S. Cellular Field. Frazier became only the seventh player in franchise history to hit 40 homers in a season with his 394-foot drive off Rays pitcher Eddie Gamboa. The blast offered Miguel Gonzalez and David Robertson just enough support as they combined on a three-hit shutout. Robertson recorded his 37th save in 44 tries.
“It’s a big deal any time a guy rounds off that number,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It’s always a big deal for you. He’s been wanting to get there for a while. I don’t know if you guys know, but he’s been talking about it for a while. I know I’ve heard it a lot. He’s been aiming for that. He wants to get 40 and 100 and especially if it counts like it did tonight and gets a guy a win.”
Frazier entered the game hitting .305/.374/.568 with six homers and 14 RBIs in September, easily his best month of the season. His homer came on a cold, windy night in which offense was at a premium.
The game was delayed for 21 minutes by rain, which continued through the first inning. The rains came again in the bottom of the third inning and delayed the contest for another 76 minutes.
Tampa’s third pitcher of the night, Gamboa’s 76-mph knuckleball caught too much of the plate and Frazier planted it about eight rows beyond the left-field bullpen with two outs in the seventh.
“Not many people have hit 40 home runs in a year so it’s a good feat to have,” Frazier said.
“It’s a great feat to have. I had a bunch of people text me ‘It’s coming. Today is the day.’ It wasn’t that much pressure. It was just a matter of knowing that it’s there and I’m glad to get it over with and now it’s on to another goal of mine.”
Frazier has never driven in 100 runs in a season. His 98 RBIs this season are nine more than his previous career high of 89 that he set in 2015.
Gonzalez hadn’t pitched into the ninth inning since he threw a four-hit shutout on Sept. 3, 2014. To get there he had to stay loose and sharp throughout the second delay of the night. Gonzalez threw twice during the delay, a total of 25 pitches in the indoor cage, and stretched to stay loose.
But being his final start, Gonzalez wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. He returned after the delay and was remarkable. He had stretches where he retired eight in a row in the middle and nine straight into the ninth before he yielded a one-out single to Logan Forsythe.
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He allowed three hits, walked none and struck out five. Gonzalez threw strikes on 71 of 102 pitches.
Robertson took over and needed only one pitch to record the save as Kevin Kiermaier grounded into a game-ending double play.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been out there for the ninth inning,” Gonzalez said. “It took me two years to get there, but they were swinging early. I made some good pitches early on. Got some quick outs, that’s what you got me to the ninth inning.
“Staying loose was really the most important thing for it.
“I was mentally prepared. Obviously you can’t get away with it. It was my last start. I was going out no matter what and didn’t give in and the results were there.”