Chris Sale was really good on Thursday night.
Max Scherzer was even better.
The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner pitched the first complete-game shutout of his career to help the Detroit Tigers avoid a sweep with a 4-0 win over the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. Scherzer threw a three-hitter and struck out eight to out-pitch Sale, who only allowed a Victor Martinez solo home run over seven outstanding innings.
“(Scherzer) was great,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “We only had a couple shots at him. He walked a couple guys, put some guys on base. After Alexei (Ramirez)'s double we had a shot there, and he was sharp all night. Whether it was a fastball or off-speed pitch, we just couldn't get to him.
“We ran into a guy that was great tonight.”
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If Sale had any lingering disappointment from his last start on Saturday in Southern California he sure didn’t show it.
The left-hander retired the first nine batters he faced in his first game since he allowed a late game-tying grand slam to Mike Trout. Sale struck out the side in the third inning and ended the fourth with a whiff of Miguel Cabrera.
But Martinez continued to be the one thorn in Sale’s side as he ripped a 2-1 slider from Sale that was up for a leadoff solo homer in the fifth inning. Martinez, who has only struck out 16 times this season, is now 13-for-25 with two homers in his career against Sale.
The homer didn’t slow Sale down.
He struck out Eduardo Suarez to strand two runners in the fifth and retired the Tigers’ first three hitters in order in the sixth. Sale, who allowed just the run and five hits, struck out Nick Castellanos to end the seventh.
Sale struck out 10 and walked none but still was hung up one his lone mistake in a 116-pitch effort.
“I had a lot of time to ruminate about what I needed to get better at (after Saturday),” Sale said. “Didn’t look like it tonight. The last game, it was giving up a homer, and this game it was giving up a homer. (Martinez is) probably hitting about .700 off me now. But I just have to be better against him in those situations.”
Sale finished with a double-digit strikeout total for the 13th time in 68 career starts.
Scherzer — and three late runs against Sox relievers — made sure Sale’s strong showing wasn’t enough.
Scherzer retired the first seven batters he faced and then stranded two runners each in the third and fourth innings.
From that point on, Scherzer didn’t allow more than one man on in any inning. He kept the White Sox off-balance, using a good slider to go along with an overpowering fastball-changeup combo. Scherzer walked a batter in the fifth inning and gave up a Beckham double in the eighth.
But the White Sox 3-4-5 hitters went 1-for-12 against the big right-hander, the only hit coming from Adam Dunn with Detroit leading 4-0 in the ninth inning
“Early, I felt like (Scherzer) lost some of his command, but we as hitters knowing how good he is,” leadoff hitter Adam Eaton said. “We chased a lot of pitches. It seemed like fourth, fifth inning he really found his groove, and I feel like as hitters we felt that. He had it going tonight, and I think the line speaks for itself.
“The push back, as we like to say in hockey, was not there tonight.”