By Bruce Levine-
CHICAGO (CBS) — White Sox ace Chris Sale completely dominated the Padres on Sunday, running his record to 5-0 with a 1.59 ERA. In a complete game, Sale allowed just two hits, including a fifth-inning home run to Chase Headley leading of the frame.
Sale struck out nine batters while throwing 100 pitches without walking anybody.
“He was fantastic today,” elated manager Robin Ventura said. “Even as strong as he was, he really attacked the strike zone. This was as efficient as he ever was for me.”
This was the third start for Sale after returning from the DL with forearm soreness. He pitched the first complete game of 2014 and fifth of his career. At his best against the aggressive Padres, the hard-throwing Sale has begun to master an 85-mph change-up to go along with his mid-90s fastball.
“He understands he fits in our rotation and what he means,” Ventura said. “When you have guys like him, you don’t have to go very long on losing streaks.”
Sale had been limited to 86 pitches in his first start off the DL and to 40 in a rain-shortened outing last time out. His dominance has taken on a new meaning now, having an ERA of 0.50 in his last three starts.
“My change-up really came into play, and I was keeping my two-seam (fastball) down,” Sale said. “My philosophy is on or out in three (pitches), so I try to fill up the zone with quality strikes.”
Headley’s home run and a base hit by Tommy Medica that followed was it for the Padres offense. Veteran Paul Konerko and catcher Tyler Flowers had solo home runs off of San Diego starter Eric Stults. Konerko’s two-run double in the Sox sixth was icing on the cake for Sale and company.
“When you see the ball coming out of his hand like today, you think 15-plus strikeouts,” Konerko said of Sale. “He is the definition of ace. There are 30 teams in the league and a lot less aces than teams. If you really start looking at it we have one of them. Every time he touches the ball, you never feel like the underdog.”
Sale has been untouched by left-handed hitters, who are 0-for-32 against him in 2014.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.