Déjà vu for Sale as White Sox offense goes silent in loss

Déjà vu for Sale as White Sox offense goes silent in loss

July 27, 2013, 8:30 pm
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Vinnie Duber
White Sox vs. Royals, 1 p.m.
on Comcast SportsNet

On the hill: Hector Santiago (3-6, 3.38 ERA); Bruce Chen (4-0, 1.97 ERA)

White Sox at a glance: 40-61 (5th in American League Central, 17 games behind Tigers) ... -70 run differntial ... 22-27 home record.

Royals at at a glance: 50-51 (3rd in American League Central, seven games behind Tigers) ... -3 run differential ... 23-27 road record.

White Sox pitching leaders: Wins - Jake Peavy (8); ERA - Chris Sale (2.69); WHIP - Sale (1.01) Strikeouts - Sale (149); Saves - Addison Reed (26)

Royals pitching leaders: Wins - Jeremy Guthrie (10); ERA - Ervin Santana (3.06); WHIP - Santana (1.08) Strikeouts - James Shields (124); Saves - Greg Holland (26)

White Sox batting leaders: Average - Alexei Ramirez (.283); Home runs - Adam Dunn (24); RBI - Dunn (61); OPS - Alejandro De Aza (.773); Stolen Bases - Alex Rios (22) 

Royals batting leaders: Average - Eric Hosmer (.286); Home runs - Hosmer (11); RBI - Billy Butler/Alex Gordon (51); OPS - Butler (.800); Stolen Bases - Jarrod Dyson (14)

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If it wasn’t for bad luck, Chris Sale would have no luck at all.

At times, it seems as if the pitcher has taken a career’s worth of hard-luck losses this season, getting little run support and being saddled with loss after loss despite pitching well enough to be considered one of baseball’s best pitchers.

Saturday was just the latest, but it might have also been the toughest.

Sale allowed one run in a complete-game effort, but the Sox were held scoreless by the Royals and fell to their division rivals, 1-0, in front of 26,172 at U.S. Cellular Field.

“Just got to stay on the positive,” Sale said. “Can’t get down on yourself, can’t get down on anyone else. Just keep grinding it out and things will turn around.”

The lefty has had to repeat those words far too often this season, and this recent stretch has been simply mind-boggling. Since the start of June, the All Star is 1-8 in 10 starts. He’s allowed three earned runs or fewer in eight of those. And how about this: Saturday marked the fourth time this season that Sale has gone eight innings or more, allowed three earned runs or fewer and taken a loss. The last time a White Sox pitcher did that was 2002, when Mark Buehrle was the unlucky arm.

[WATCH: A frustrated Sale continues to roll with the punches]

“I feel like he’s kind of been putting a lot of pressure on himself because he hasn’t gotten a lot of run support, but tonight he really didn’t care,” catcher Josh Phegley said. “He just was going to go out and throw his game, and that’s all he can do. He put us in a position to win a game, gave up one run over a complete game.

“If that’s not good enough to do it, that’s on us.”

Sale obviously doesn’t want to lose, but he knows that his teammates feel equally frustrated with the results of the ace’s stellar performances.

“I can honestly say that there were 24 guys in here and a coaching staff that wanted those runs more than I did, and I truly believe that,” Sale said. “It’s just kind of the way the ball falls sometimes. It’s tough, yeah, but at the end of the day you’ve got to stay on it and keep your head up.”

Sale allowed Saturday’s lone Kansas City run in the sixth inning, when Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler hit back-to-back singles to leadoff the frame. Two batters later, Lorenzo Cain smashed a ball past a diving Jeff Keppinger at third for an RBI double.

The Sox had very few opportunities. Royals starter Wade Davis silenced the South Side bats, shutting them out in his 7 1/3 innings of work before the bullpen took over.

The Sox had their best chance in the bottom of the ninth, when the first two batters reached. Runners were at the corners with one out after a fielder’s choice, and a line drive off the bat of Keppinger should’ve brought Alex Rios home for the game-tying run. But right fielder David Lough made a phenomenal catch, and Rios, running on what he assumed was going to be a hit, had to stay at third base. Conor Gillaspie struck out, and the game was over.

"To tell you the truth, I don't think there's much I could have done,” Rios said after being asked why he didn’t tag up. “That was a hell of a play, and even if I tagged up I don't think I had a chance at home. It's a tough play for us."

It was one of several sensational plays by the Royals outfield, something that certainly led to Davis’ spotless line.

But, in the end, the focus shifted back to Sale, who has somehow found it easier to pick up a win in the All-Star Game than on an ordinary summer day with the White Sox. Sale said this current stretch of adversity is unlike anything he’s experienced before.

[RELATED: Phegley, Flowers compete with, for each other]

Still, he’s focusing on the positives. But what positives could come from this?

“Just knowing that myself, personally, and all these guys collectively are playing as hard as we can,” Sale said. “We leave everything out on the field, we don’t shy away from anybody, and we don’t ever give up. If there’s anything to take, that’s the main thing. That’s all you can do in sports, give 100 percent, leave it all on the field and whatever happens, happens.”

It’s impressive how Sale is handling this seemingly endless streak of bad luck, and his teammates see that.

“I think he understands that he can only control how many they score,” Phegley said. “And it’s up to us to get him some run support. He knows that we’re trying as hard as we can and doing our best to try to put together good at-bats and try to get something going for him. He’s on our side, and we’re trying to help him.”

“He’s learning a tough lesson, part of baseball,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He pitched great tonight. There’s no question about it. You can’t be perfect, but he’s pretty dang close.”

Chris Sale -- the All Star, the ace, one of baseball’s best -- now has 10 losses. Like almost everything else that’s happened to the White Sox this season, it’s something no one saw coming. But give the left-hander an incredible amount of credit because he’s rolling with every strike of bad luck that comes his and the Sox way.

“Baseball’s a crazy sport,” Sale said. “Sports in general are crazy. Different things happen on different years, this just happens to be a different year. Stay on it, keep your head up and keep grinding it out.”