Chris Sale won his eighth straight start for the Chicago White Sox at Yankee Stadium Friday evening and is the early candidate for AL Cy Young Award honors. The New York Yankees don’t have that type of starter and with the exception of Masahiro Tanaka, there is not as much optimism in the Bronx.
The White Sox with a 7-1 win over the Yankees are off to their best start since 2006, and with a 24-12 record are playing second fiddle to the Cubs on the other side of town who have a Major League best 26-8 record. Sale, (8-0) pitched his second complete game of the season and limited the Yankees to six hits and a home run to Chase Headley in the second inning.
So part of White Sox early season success has been the pitching of Sale. The lefthander lowered his ERA to 1.67 and has allowed six runs in his last six starts. Saturday afternoon Chicago goes with lefthander Jose Quintana (5-1, 1.38 ERA), 4-0 with 24 strikeouts in his last four starts.
Resurgence in Chitown? Perhaps, because the White Sox spent a lot of money last year and failed to live up to expectations and finished a disappointing fourth in the AL Central at 76-86, and there were rumblings that the manager, Robin Ventura was on the hot seat.
When you have Sale as the ace, among the most consistent pitchers in baseball the past two years, and an offense that is second in on base percentage, walks, average, runs per game and runs scored in the month of May, that means winning ballgames.
“That’s really the new him,” Ventura said about Sale. “This is a different guy, He could strike people out, but I think you’re seeing a more effective guy that can go deeper into games. I think the last couple of years he probably wouldn’t be able to do this.”
But Sale is doing it, and very effectively. On the other hand, the Yankees continue to struggle and their inconsistent offense could not contend with Sale who retired 15 straight until a ninth inning single from Starlin Castro in the ninth,
And the Yankees woes of mediocrity continued. Their path to reach the .500 mark and climb out of last place took another blow for the worst with righthander Luis Severino. With CC Sabathia on the disabled list with a strain to the left groin, Severino joined him Friday night with a mild right triceps strain that put him on the 15-day DL.
The Yankees say the strain is minor, But it was enough to cause Severino, their top young pitcher, to be removed from the game after allowing seven hits and four walks in 2-⅔ innings, and the ERA rose to 7.46.
There is that distinct difference because the White Sox are strong, healthy and most of all when they throw Sale and follow up with Quintana on the mound. The Yankees now have to find a tool to replace Severino and the task will probably go to righthander Luis Cessa, 0-1 with a 4.18 ERA at Triple-A Scranton.
“He had no command,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said about Severino, now 0-6 and with much speculation as to when he will be on the mound again.
Which led to more speculation? Has the ineffective Severino been hindered by the strain and is this leading to more issues and eventual Tommy John surgery? Girardi said there were no signs of anything bothering Severino, but as he said, “He was not throwing the baseball where he wanted. He walked guys. He left balls up., he missed his spots.”
In other words, the command issue was a sign again that something may have been wrong. But the velocity on the fastball, curve and other pitches did not vary and that may also lead one to believe that Severino has been fighting the mechanics
But as Girardi said, “When someone leaves a game because of something in their elbow, you’re really concerned.”
No concern though for the White Sox. Sale worked quickly and struck out six with the good command and threw 99 pitches. He became the first Major League pitcher to win each of his first eight starts of the season since Arizona’s Brandon Webb in 2008 who went 9-0.
Last year Sale led the American League in strikeouts. But the offense did not help. Yes, it is different this time and Sale is getting the strikeouts and the run support which is leading to his ability to get hitters out with efficiency.
“There is no pitcher in the league that can complain about that,” Sale said about the run support and good defense he has received. “It just makes you just go out there and concentrate and throwing strikes. At the end of the day starting pitching wins games but we still have to score some runs.”
The White Sox got that run support for Sale with three runs in the second inning and four more in fourth, that included a home run to right from Jimmy Rollins, his second of the season.
And for the Yankees, it was that task again of trying to produce runs, After taking three of four from the world champion Royals, running into Chris Sale was not the right option to continue the consistency.
More so, Girardi and the higher ups now have to deal with another pitcher who heads to the disabled list.