Through five innings, the White Sox seemed all set to waste one of the most dominant starts in franchise history.
Against a lineup where the Rays hid most of their prominent lefties from him, Chris Sale annihilated their fill-ins, striking out 15 in seven innings, with absolutely every tool you would hope to see from him.
He worked in the mid-90's with regularity, he dominated righties with both his slider and changeup, and he looked about as satisfied doing it as any White Sox pitcher since Jake Peavy shutout the Indians last May.
Sale looked to be in line for a hard-luck loss after Ben Zobrist reached 2nd in the 4th on a botched pickoff play, and scored on the first RBI single of Jose Labaton's career.
But in the 6th, Adam Dunn got a hold of a Matt Moore fastball for a two-run homer to the back wall of Tropicana Field. It was all the offensive juggernaut of the past few days could manage on the day, but Sale and a white-knuckle ninth-inning by Addison Reed against a slate of powerful lefties made it stand up.
White Sox 2, Rays 1
Chris Sale - 7.1 IP, 3 H, ER, 2 BB, 15 K, 115 pitches - Unreal. Plus velocity combined with the best command of his slider and change we've seen.
Matt Moore - 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, BB, 10 K - Any other day and it would be all about him
Adam Dunn - 1 for 3, HR, BB, 2 RBI - Finally got the timing down on a single fastball, and that's all he needs.
Addison Reed - IP, 0 H, 0 R, SV - Facing three of Tampa's best lefties in a row was no easy feat for the fastball-slider right-hander.
It wasn't clear how the White Sox intended to get anything going against a very dominant Matt Morre, but they didn't need to build any rally too substantive. Gordon Beckham drilled a strong single through the hole between 3rd and short with one out in the 6th, and Adam Dunn timed and drilled 93 mph fastball it over the right field concourse.
That's not something he did a whole lot of last season.
Things Would Be Different If...
Sale figured to be in for his first jam of the day in the 7th. He walked the leadoff batter and allowed a line shot off the bat of Elliott Johnson.
But while Orlando Hudson hasn't gotten many tests of his reaction time at 3rd base since moving over there, he passed this one, diving to his right for the stop and eliminating the lead runner.
This was a demonstration of why Chris Sale is so important, why he represents the potential of the White Sox rotation for years to come. There's simply not many guys in the league with the potential to overpower a lineup like this young man, and certainly no one else in the White Sox organization.
On a day where the offense had no answers, Sale continued the winning streak by completely taking the Tampa offense out of the equation. More than that, he completely took them out of the field.
Team Record: 27-22, (As of writing, the Indians are leading 6-4 in the 6th, so let'd say .5 GB)