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White Sox Tue May 29 2012

Sale Dominates in Opener at Tampa

What I wrote yesterday? Disregard that for this series.

With the White Sox in St. Petersburg for a three-game set versus the Rays, pitching will have to be the South Siders' focus - because the Rays have such a good rotation and bullpen, the Sox' pitching has to keep the Rays offense in check to keep games close.

Chris Sale did just that Monday, pitching an absolute gem of a game in a Sox 2-1 victory. I was thoroughly impressed by what the 6'6" lefty did today; 8.1 innings pitched, one run allowed and 15 strikeouts. Fifteen!

Sale found his groove early and worked at a brisk pace all afternoon. Sale struck out three batters in the first, then two each inning until the sixth, when he struck out the side. His biggest strikeout was his last one. Sale got Jose Molina swinging with a runner on third, ending the inning with the score still at 2-1.

With a fastball that hit as high as 97 mph, Sale powered his way through the contest. To mix it up, Sale had a remarkably fast 86 mph changeup working as well. He located his pitches with expert precision. Most of the strikeouts came on a low-and-in slider to righthanded hitters (the Rays benched all of their best lefties), and just when you thought you could expect that pitch coming with two strikes, Sale would hum a high heater up and out over the plate.

The 23-year old Sale improved his record to 6-2, and his ERA now stands at 2.34. Since he's been pitching well all season, it would be ridiculous if the Sox entertained the idea of putting him in the bullpen this year. He's a stud, and he needs to make a start every five days.

The bullpen was also splendid in game one of the series. Jesse Crain and Addison Reed got the Rays five up, five down to close the contest. Reed in particular got the Rays out on some weak ground outs and pop ups.

As for the offense, with Tampa's young hurler Matt Moore on the hill, runs were going to be hard to come by. Moore struck out 10 (including Paul Konerko twice) and made only one mistake - a low fastball that Adam Dunn destroyed.

The Sox play game two against the Rays today at 6:10 p.m., and with James Shields (6-2, 3.63 ERA) on the hill, Philip Humber will have to channel his inner Sale for the Sox to pull out a win.

 
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