As far as the White Sox are concerned, Chris Sale is on the American League All-Star team.
Sure, he might face some tough competition. But there’s no doubt that the two-time All-Star deserves a third nod when teams are announced on Sunday night.
Sale continued to strengthen his case for inclusion on Friday night when he struck out 12 and threw a complete-game six-hitter as the White Sox downed the Seattle Mariners, 7-1, at U.S. Cellular Field.
Sale improved to 8-1, and Jose Abreu extended his hitting streak to 18 games with a two-run home run, his 27th. Dayan Viciedo also homered.
“If he’s not, I’d like to see all the other guys,” White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers said of Sale. “There’s really no question he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball, definitely in this league.”
Sale is up against a talented class of AL pitchers in a bid for a third straight appearance at the All-Star Game. Masahiro Tanaka, Felix Hernandez, Mark Buehrle, Yu Darvish, Dallas Keuchel and Rick Porcello all entered Friday with a higher WAR than Sale, per baseball-reference.com.
But Sale has achieved his 3.2 B-War in fewer starts than the rest after he missed five weeks with a sore flexor muscle strain.
Sale has made up for lost time since he came off the disabled list on May 22.
In his last nine starts, Sale has a 2.10 ERA with 44 hits allowed and nine walks in 60 innings. He has 67 strikeouts and is 5-1.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura has stated Sale’s case for a while now. As dominant as Friday’s effort was, when Sale needed 112 pitches and allowed just the run, it didn’t move the needle for Ventura — he has been convinced for a while now.
“He should be in the All-Star Game,” Ventura said. “You do want to win the game because it’s important. I’m sure if they want to win, he’d be a guy I’d want.”
Facing a lineup loaded with left-handed hitters, Sale cruised. He retired the side in order five times. Only once before the ninth did runners advance into scoring position, and Sale ended that sixth-inning threat by stranding runners on second and third with a strikeout of Robinson Cano on a 2-2 slider.
He relinquished the shutout in the ninth inning after Willie Bloomquist singled and went to third when Viciedo, playing deep, couldn’t catch Cano’s blooper and it went for a double. Bloomquist then scored on Corey Hart’s sac fly.
Sale reached a double-digit strikeout total for the 14th time in his career, which moves him closer to the franchise record of 17. Sale is third in White Sox history and only trails all-time leader Ed Walsh by three.
The winning pitcher in last year’s All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York, Sale is OK with Sunday’s announcements either way.
“If it happens, awesome,” Sale said. “For me, it's a win-win situation. Either you're going to the All-Star Game or you're getting to go hang out with your family for four straight days.”
Viciedo, who had four hits, and the White Sox ensured Sale wouldn’t lament a great effort-turned-missed opportunity as they supported him well.
Viciedo’s solo homer in the fourth against Mariners starter Roenis Elias put the White Sox ahead for good. They scored four times in the fifth inning as Adam Eaton had an RBI double, Gordon Beckham had a sac fly and Abreu homered to left to extend his hitting streak. The 18-game streak is the longest by a White Sox player this season and is the longest by a Sox rookie since Pete Ward had the same amount in 1963.
Paul Konerko also homered but Sale, with his arsenal, didn’t need much help on Friday. As Flowers sees it, the AL wouldn’t need to do much either, so long as Sale gets on the squad again.
“He throws up to 98, has a very good changeup and that slider is pretty devastating when he's feeling good with it,” Flowers said. “On top of that, when you're throwing strikes with your fastball, they've got to respect multiple pitches. You can't really just sit on one pitch or the other.”