BOSTON — Chris Sale was on Target on Wednesday night.
His bullpen was not.
Making his last pitch for the American League Final Vote, Sale added another gem to his resume but was denied a victory as the bullpen helped blow a four-run lead in the final two innings.
Left off the AL’s original All-Star roster, Sale, one of five AL pitchers who can be voted into next week’s exhibition by fans, shut down the Boston Red Sox for 7 2/3 innings before they rallied to drop the White Sox in a 5-4 stunner in front of 36,218 at Fenway Park.
Jacob Petricka and Javy Guerra both allowed two earned runs and Sale the other as Boston won on Brock Holt’s walkoff single in the ninth. White Sox relievers have blown 12 of 31 save opportunities this season.
“The way Chris threw the ball, I put that one all on me,” said Guerra, who hit one batter and allowed two runs on two hits in the ninth. “I’ve got to go out there and shut that door, make those pitches. I’ve got to do better. Tomorrow’s another day, but I’ll definitely look back at this one.
“Anytime a starter goes out there and throws that way, he deserves to win. The guy is special. The guy is throwing the ball great. Put it on me. He deserves to win tonight.”
Sale was cruising to a 9-1 mark as he threw strikes on 80 of 107 pitches.
But a White Sox bullpen that has routinely struggled since the start of an 11-game road trip late last month, sputtered again.
Petricka, whose ERA jumped from 1.85 to 2.22, entered with a man on third and two outs and gave up an RBI single to Dustin Pedroia and an RBI double to David Oritz. Petricka then walked Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes doubled to make it 4-3. But Guerra got pinch hitter Mike Carp to ground out to preserve the advantage.
Guerra didn’t have as much success in the ninth. He hit Mookie Betts with a 1-2 fastball and pinch hitter Daniel Nava doubled in the tying run. Holt then singled to right to score the winning run.
“We had Jake who has been great with righties and the way he’s been pitching lately,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “You get him in there and you figure you are going to have a chance to get out of it.
“He doesn’t and then Javy comes in and does a pretty good job (in the eighth). We just couldn’t hold it. You get to a point where a mistake here, you hit a batter, put a guy on. You should probably find another way to do it. It’s tough. Chris pitched a great game.”
Sale and his #TargetSale campaign have been the talk of the White Sox clubhouse since the two-time All-Star was left off the roster on Sunday.
Whether teammates tweeted or wore DoodleHats or T-shirts in sponsorship of Sale’s candidacy, you can’t help but notice the support the left-hander has received from the White Sox.
Sale, who said he wouldn’t vote for himself, gave himself a ringing endorsement against the Red Sox. Pitching against John Farrell, the manager who picked his own pitcher over him for the AL squad, Sale brought pinpoint accuracy with him to the mound.
He only allowed two men into scoring position in eight trips to the mound and left holding a 4-0 lead. The outing lowered Sale’s already-low ERA from 2.16 to 2.08 as he scattered four hits and a hit batsmen over 7 2/3 innings. Sale struck out six batters and walked none.
“This is baseball,” Sale said. “This is what happens. We’re not the first team this has ever happened to. Just try not to get too down on it and come back tomorrow ready to win.
“Any time you lose a game like that it’s tough, but it happens. We’ve all been there before. You’re going to win some on the flip side like that and you’re going to lose some so you’ve got to play the game. That’s why you play every out, every inning and come back tomorrow ready to win.”
Just as they supported him this week, the White Sox offense backed Sale from the outset.
All-Star Jose Abreu crushed a first-inning solo homer out to center field off Rubby De La Rosa to put the White Sox up by a run. An inning later, Conor Gillaspie matched the feat with a nearly identical home run to put the White Sox ahead by two. It’s the first time in his career Gillaspie has homered in consecutive games as his two-run shot Tuesday was the deciding factor.
Gillaspie started another rally with a one-out double in the fourth inning and scored on Napoli’s second error in two days. Adam Eaton’s two-out RBI double in the seventh inning made it a 4-0 game.
But it wasn’t enough.
“In the grand scheme of the game, you have to get those last three outs no matter what,” Guerra said. “Everyone’s got to find a way. We all do it differently. Any time you hit a guy to get a guy on with a one-run game at this park, with these guys and this lineup, they’re good enough to make you pay for it.”