BOSTON — Chris Sale may have been overlooked for the All-Star team originally, but 6.7 million fans have helped right what the White Sox considered a big wrong.
The ace pitcher is headed for a third consecutive All-Star Game after he was named the winner of the American League’s Final Vote contest on Thursday.
Sale — who is 8-1 with a 2.08 ERA and 102 strikeouts in 95 innings this season — bested four other AL pitchers to earn the honor, including Detroit’s Rick Porcello, Los Angeles’ Garrett Richards, Cleveland’s Corey Kluber and Houston’s Dallas Keuchel.
While Sale never voted for himself, he received significant support from his teammates and throughout the organization. You couldn’t go anywhere this week without finding a #TargetSale T-shirt, DoodleHat or tweet by one of Sale’s teammates.
“That’s crazy,” Sale said. “Obviously I have to show my appreciation to the friends and family and the fans that voted. This is because of them. If I do pitch, I have to pitch good, right?”
Sale has logged three scoreless innings in his two previous All-Star appearances, including a win last season after he pitched two frames at Citi Field in New York. Teammates were stunned on Sunday when Sale, who is having a career year, wasn’t selected for the squad.
Though he missed five weeks with a sore flexor mass muscle, Sale leads all AL pitchers with 4.2 Wins Above Replacement, per baseball-reference.com.
“He’s really good,” White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana said. “I don’t know how he went to Final Vote. He made the All-Star team first (two years). He’s a pretty good starter and it’s his best year. For me he’s the best lefty in the American League.”
White Sox manager Robin Ventura has long said that Sale should be part of the exhibition regardless of the time he missed because he’s one of the most difficult at-bats for opposing hitters.
Sale has only backed up those assertions with a 2.00 ERA and a 5-1 mark in 67 2/3 innings since he returned from the disabled list on May 22.
Included in those efforts was Thursday’s start against the Red Sox and manager John Farrell, who is the AL skipper next Tuesday in Minneapolis. Sale allowed a run and four hits with a hit batter over 7 2/3 innings.
“He’s as good as anybody,” Ventura said. “I know it seems biased but you start looking at pitchers around the league and you can tell by the at-bats and swings guys have … He’s as good as anybody.”
He’s also as deserving as anyone of the teammates who he’ll join for the AL in Minneapolis.
Even though he needed his friends to get him in — as well as a publicity tour that included seven radio interviews on Tuesday — Sale said it’s worth it. Pitching in the All-Star Game is hardly something he plans to take for granted.
“I enjoyed the process of the shirts and the campaigning and the votes and all that,” Sale said. “It was really enjoyable.
“It’s crazy but I’m just excited just like any other one. No matter how many you make, you still get excited about it. It’s a fun experience, especially to have my family up there with me to experience it with them. Looking to have another good time.”