Sox torrid run ends at nine

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Sox torrid run ends at nine

All good things have to come to an end. The Sox weren't going to win every game from now through early October. On Saturday, a team finally bested the White Sox, losing to Seattle 10-8 in extra innings, the team's first defeat since May 22.

When the Sox nine-game winning streak began the next day, a 21-22 record stared them in the face. Cleveland was up 3 12 games in the AL Central, and the momentum the Sox built up against the Cubs the weekend before was halted by Minnesota blasting Gavin Floyd for nine runs in 3 23 innings. It felt like a Twins-Sox game from years past, in which the Sox couldn't solve their pesky rivals to the north.

The sweep of the Cubs was forgotten as doom and gloom prevailed. The Twins, with all their talent deficiencies, had blown the Sox to bits, and it seemed like some were expecting more of the same in the next two games.

Chris Sale played the role of the stopper, throwing seven shutout innings on May 23. Alex Rios and Paul Konerko belted home runs, which ultimately were the beginnings of outstanding offensive stretches for both players. The Sox won 6-0. They didn't lose again until today.

In between, the Sox played their best stretch of baseball since the summer of 2010, when they won 11 in a row from June 15 through June 26. By the All-Star break, the Sox were in first, erasing a slow start that saw the team fall nine games below .500 on June 8.

After a comeback win over Minnesota on May 24, the Sox faced a showdown with Cleveland. A series win would move the Sox within 2 12 games of Cleveland, and while standings really don't matter this early in the season, that the Sox would at least be hanging around first place would've been an improvement over 2011.

Instead, the Sox went ahead and swept Cleveland, scoring 35 runs to support some shaky starting pitching. It was a team-wide effort, but Konerko led the charge. At the end of the series, Konerko was fielding questions about whether he could hit .400 this year. He rocketed into the MVP discussion, with Texas' Josh Hamilton seemingly his only barrier as the calendar turned to June.

But Rios, Adam Dunn, Gordon Beckham and Dayan Viciedo all picked up the slack. Viciedo in particular has been white-hot, raising his OPS from the mid-.500s to over .800. Dunn continues to mash the ball, hitting his 17th home run Friday. He hit 11 home runs in the month of May alone, equaling his entire 2011 longball total.

The Sox offense carried this streak, totaling 72 runs over nine games -- an average of eight per contest. The Sox scored four or more runs in eight of the nine games, and in the only one they failed to do so, it didn't matter. Sale struck out 15 in that Memorial Day contest, so it didn't matter that the only offensive output was a two-run blast by Dunn.

On the final night of the streak, Beckham hit a pair of home runs. Both came off Felix Hernandez, who hasn't had an ERA above 3.50 since 2007. It was his first multi-homer game of his career.

Saturday, though, saw the streak end. Seattle out-lasted the Sox in a dozen innings, with the Sox giving up a late lead and getting it back on a blast by Viciedo. But Addison Reed couldn't keep the Mariners at bay in his second inning of work, and Seattle scored twice to secure a victory.

When the dust settled, the Sox went from 3 12 games out of first to up on Cleveland. They went from divisional afterthought to legitimate contender.

At least for now. Four months separate the White Sox from the end of the season, but thanks to this nine-game stretch, their season outlook has changed. There's real excitement about the Sox, even if attendance numbers don't show it yet.

And if the streak is a sign of good play to come, that excitement and interest will last long into the fall.

Chris Sale: Trade from White Sox 'bittersweet,' ready to move on with Red Sox

Chris Sale: Trade from White Sox 'bittersweet,' ready to move on with Red Sox

There’s no question he’s excited about the chance to pitch for a perennial playoff team in front of Fenway Park crowds deep into October.

But Chris Sale described the trade that sent him from the White Sox to the Boston Red Sox as bittersweet on Wednesday morning. On his way out of town, Sale, who was traded Tuesday for four minor leaguers, including two elite prospects, credited the White Sox for their support and belief in him from the outset of his career. But while he wishes he could have won a title on the South Side, Sale also said he’s ready to move on.

“It’s exciting for all the reasons I already said,” Sale said. “It’s tough. You build a relationship with these guys and they are like family. Everybody over there is being in your family. You are around these guys probably even more during the year than you are around your family. It’s tough. But knowing what lies ahead makes it a little bit easier for that transition.

“It didn’t work out. I really wish it did. I have nothing but really good things to take from that and I appreciate my time with the White Sox. But I’m looking forward to the next chapter.”

After several years of hearing trade speculation, the five-time All-Star said he started to sense the possibility was real a few weeks ago after a conversation with his agent. The chatter began to increase with the start of the Winter Meetings this week and Sale said he was inundated with texts from friends and family in anticipation of where he could be headed. When he learned it was the Red Sox, Sale said was ecstatic to learn he’d be playing for one of the “greatest baseball franchises ever.”

“It’s kind of like being monkey in the middle, you’re just glad when you finally get the ball,” Sale said. “It’s hectic. There’s a lot of speculation. There’s story after story and obviously getting flood with text messages from family and friends. Just to have the whole process out the way and to get back to normalcy will be nice.”

[Complete coverage of the White Sox-Red Sox Chris Sale blockbuster trade]

Many of those messages came from former White Sox teammates. Sale said he and his wife, who is soon due with their second child, spent much of Tuesday looking at old pictures and nostalgia from his White Sox tenure. Though he’s disappointed by the lack of team success with the White Sox, Sale said the team’s support was a critical element to his success.

The White Sox drafted Sale with the 13th overall pick in 2010 and he reached the majors later that season. Though he spent the first two seasons in the bullpen, the team’s plan all along was to make Sale a starting pitcher, something others weren’t certain he could handle. Sale has been an All-Star and also finished in the top six in the Cy Young Award vote in each of the five seasons since he became a starter.

“It didn’t work out the way we wanted it to in Chicago, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t a lot of great moments,” Sale said. “I had a very good conversation with Rick (Hahn) yesterday.

“I was in a situation in 2010, how many teams would have done what they did? It’s hard to say now, but probably not very many. They drafted me in the first round when people had questions. They brought me up to the big leagues really fast and people probably had questions. They threw in the rotation and people clearly had questions.

“They were really, they had my back a lot and they gave me opportunities that not a lot of other people would have given me. I’m very thankful for that.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Breaking down the Chris Sale trade

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Breaking down the Chris Sale trade

On the latest episode of the White Sox Talk Podcast, Chuck Garfien and Dan Hayes break down the White Sox trade of Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox.

Plus, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe provides some insight on what exactly the White Sox got in return for their former ace.

And Rick Hahn talks about just how difficult it was to pull the trigger and trade elite, homegrown talent.

Listen to the latest episode below: