Justin Timberlake, Drake and Desiigner were among the musical choices on Sunday. But over the last week, the White Sox have been able to blast plenty of celebratory songs in their clubhouse with regularity, representing an audible change from the postgame silence that largely accompanied a stretch of 26 losses in 36 games that looks to be in the rearview mirror.
Chris Sale delivered eight strong innings to pace the White Sox to a 5-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays Sunday afternoon in front of 28,345 at U.S. Cellular Field. The White Sox, who took three of four from the Boston Red Sox last week at Fenway Park, last won back-to-back series from April 22-27 against the Texas Rangers and Blue Jays.
“You look at the teams we went up against too, Boston and Toronto, those are two of the best in the league,” Sale said, referring to both of the American League’s wild card leaders. “... This is what we needed. Stuff like this is what makes you turn the corner.
“We’ve been listening to some music lately and it’s been fun.”
Sale scattered five hits and two walks and was the recipient of some solid defense behind him. Right fielder Adam Eaton threw out Josh Donaldson at second base in the first inning when the reigning American League MVP tried to stretch a line drive off the wall into a double, and a sterling double play turned by third baseman Tyler Saladino and second baseman Brett Lawrie erased a Donaldson single in the seventh.
Troy Tulowitzki and Junior Lake both blasted solo home runs in the top of the eighth, but that was the only damage Toronto was able to inflict against Sale.
The 27-year-old only sprinkled six strikeouts throughout the afternoon as he consistently pounded the strike zone. His efficiency was welcome news for a relief corps that’s had to cover plenty of stressful outs and innings over the last few weeks.
Only David Robertson — who earned his 20th save — had to jog in from the left field bullpen on Sunday.
“The way the bullpen was, (Sale) was fantastic today,” manager Robin Ventura said.
“It’s nice, it’s refreshing, it’s needed,” reliever Zach Duke said. “What (Sale) did today is huge for all of us. To have a guy like that helps everybody.”
Sale only threw 99 pitches, but the home runs he allowed in the eighth inning — which were followed by a walk to Darwin Barney — led Ventura to pull his starter three outs shy of a complete game.
“He had really good command today with all of his pitches working in and out,” catcher Alex Avila said. “He changed speeds really well with his fastball today along with the great command. He was throwing strikes, a lot of strikes, today, and he did a great job.”
Sale was supported by some opportunistic baserunning from Eaton and Saladino, a scorching Melky Cabrera (who went 3-4 with an RBI) and solo home runs off the bats of Tim Anderson and J.B. Shuck.
The White Sox improved to 13-3 in games started by Sale, who also became baseball’s first 13-game winner on Sunday. Even during a lengthy nadir from mid-May through the end of last weekend’s sweep in Cleveland, Sale won five games — half the team’s total from May 10 through June 19.
But the White Sox feel like their arrow is pointing up after winning five of their last seven games against Boston and Toronto. Sale made sure on Sunday this newfound era of good feelings wasn’t going to meet a premature end.
“It’s just a sign we’re starting to get back on the right track,” Shuck said. “We’re playing the baseball we want to play.”