Chris Sale is all about a strong finish to 2013.
Exactly one year after he began a late slide, Sale established a franchise-record as he recorded at least 12 strikeouts for the fourth time this season.
The left-hander’s effort over eight outstanding innings on Wednesday night and five late runs led the White Sox to a 6-1 victory over the Houston Astros at U.S. Cellular Field. A pair of rookies paced a four-run, seventh-inning rally as Leury Garcia showed off his speed and Avisail Garcia displayed his brawn with his first home run for the White Sox, who have won five straight series.
Sale has been just as successful of late as his team, winners in 10 of 12, with victories in four of his last five starts.
“My arm feels loose, my body feels good,” Sale said. “Something (pitching coach Don Cooper) and I have talked about is last year I kind of limped across the finish line. This one he’s like ‘Let’s sprint across at the end of the year.’ It’s something I’m working toward and trying to do.”
The difference thus far is significant.
Now in his second year as a starter, Sale has contended all season how he has felt stronger than he did in 2012. He not only knows how to manage himself better on the mound, but Sale and the White Sox training staff have improved his strenghth and conditioning program by tailoring it to his needs.
The evidence to back Sale’s claims of good health has been overwhelming.
On Wednesday, Sale threw 50 fastballs against Houston at an average of 95 mph, according to brooksbaseball.net.
He struck out the side in the first and fifth innings and had two each in the second and third. Though his strikeouts slowed down, Sale moved past Ed Walsh (1910) and Javier Vazquez (2006) for the most starts of 12 or more strikeouts in franchise history with a seventh inning whiff of Brandon Barnes.
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Sale allowed a game-tying, seventh-inning home run to Chris Carter but was otherwise outstanding. He allowed a run and four hits with two walks in a 107-pitch effort.
“He has a better idea of what it takes throughout a season,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Last year there was some fatigue in there with [it being] the first time being a starter through a full major league season [which] is a lot different than being in the bullpen or in the minor leagues as a starter. So this year he just has a better idea of how to go about it and kind of lengthen out to where he's as strong now as he's been all year.”
A year ago, Sale made his shortest start of the 2012 campaign when he was removed after 76 pitches and allowed four earned runs and put nine men on base in a four-inning start at Baltimore.
In that outing, Sale threw only 30 fastballs at an average of 92 mph.
Sale’s stuff didn’t get much better as the season went on and he stumbled several times. Over his final seven starts, Sale went 2-4 with a 4.62 ERA as opposing hitters batted .296 against him over 39 innings.
The lessons learned late in 2012 have Sale feeling as if he is better prepared for the final month of 2013.
“I remember not getting very deep (at Baltimore) and giving up quite a few runs,” Sale said. “But those are all things to learn from and try to build on and move forward into this year."