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White Sox Tue May 14 2013

The Postscript to Chris Sale's Near Perfect Evening

Sox_200.pngChris Sale has arrived. Just check what the reaction has been to his gem Sunday night.

Teammates heaped on praise as opposing pitcher CJ Wilson said Sale has "video game stuff." Sale's been called the lone watchable player on the team, and Buster Olney called Sale the face of the White Sox. Sale wasn't exactly an unknown, but he's now officially one of the premiere pitchers in baseball.

Two nights ago, Sale threw a complete-game, one hit shutout at home against the Angels on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. Other than a Mike Trout dribbler that reached center field, he was perfect - seven strikeouts, 11 groundouts and nine flyouts, with only a few balls that could have been trouble. Alex Rios nabbed a deep fly ball off the bat of Howie Kendrick in the second inning, and Alexei Ramirez made a spinning toss on a Alberto Callaspo grounder in the seventh. Otherwise, Sale was untouchable.

It got to the point where it was tough to even imagine an Angel batter squaring up a Sale pitch. His fastball reached the mid-90s, his changeup was placed perfectly, and his breaking balls looped and cut into the strikezone at the last moment. And to add to all this, each pitch came from Sale's slingshot sidearm angle -- there was no way that the Angels had any idea where a pitch was headed or how it would break. Trout even said so after the game.

Los Angeles hacked away. Sale only needed a scant 98 pitches to finish off 28 batters, and the Angels only saw a fourth pitch in an at-bat 13 times. Of course, it helped that Sale was pounding the zone, firing in 68 pitches for strikes.

The lefty Sale has been awesome this year. Except for a bad game against Cleveland, every start has been a quality start. He has a 2.88 ERA with a 0.94 WHIP and a 4.08 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Runners simply aren't getting on base when Sale's on the mound.

It's crazy to go back and look where this guy came from. He was a first round pick in 2010, and debuted later that season. I noticed what Sale could become on July 27, 2011, in a random Wednesday day game against the Tigers. He was this lanky kid who came on to relieve John Danks in a 2-1 game, and he blew Detroit batters away. He tossed three strikeouts (including one to Miguel Cabrera) in 2.2 perfect innings before Sergio Santos entered for a one out save. Right then, it was clear this guy had talent.

The next spring training, in 2012, Sale had two really strong outings as the team was deciding what to do with him. It was unclear if Sale was going to be a starter or reliever. After a couple good games to start the year, it was obvious that the guy belonged in the rotation. In late May, he had the Sox's second-best pitching display of the year (behind Philip Humber's perfecto). An All-Star Game appearance and a run at the Cy Young followed for Sale.

Now he's the ace of the Sox staff, a franchise guy for a team in transition. Sale signed a deal this offseason that will keep him in the black pinstripes through the end of the decade, so he may have many more stellar performances in the future for the Sox. It wouldn't be surprising if one of those is perfect.

 
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