Due to the oddities of scheduling, Chris Sale and Luis Mendoza have squared off on three occasions this season. Due to the oddities of baseball, each game has been a pitching duel demanding everything the White Sox Cy Young candidate has.
In the first meeting, a fatigued Sale battled through 10 hits in eight innings with declining velocity--Mendoza fought him almost even, and lost. In the second meeting, a rested Sale unleashed the wrath of hell upon the Royals lineup with his best stuff--Mendoza fought him almost even, and lost. In the third, an out-of-sorts Sale danced around solid contact all the way till the 7th. And when he faltered, Luis Mendoza was working over the Sox lineup once again.
While Sale's velocity was vintage, his command was open to criticism. A line-drive from Alcides Escobar nailed him in the hand in the 1st inning, and set the tone for his night. Billy Butler and Lorenzo Cain combined to continue Sale's bizarre streak of two solo home runs per start, and the nine hits allowed in his 6.2 IP didn't account for every line drive.
But it was still a Chris Sale start, and with Konerko homering in his return from the DL and a two-out Gordon Beckham RBI single in the 5th, the Sox had a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the 7th. With runners in scoring position and one out, Sale dug deep to strike out Alex Gordon, and was sitting over 110 pitches with Crain ready and Billy Butler and Salvador Perez waiting. Both had hit Sale well, but Butler had homered and was intentionally walked. Ventura had gotten away with intentionally walking Jeff Francouer twice, but Perez lined the third changeup of the at-bat off of the left field wall, and the Royals had their lead for the night.
Viciedo and Beckham managed to start the next inning with back-to-back singles, but Kelvin Herrera carved through the top of the order to kill the threat.
Royals 4, White Sox 2
Chris Sale - 6.2 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, 2 HR, 117 pitches - At least the velocity was there, but this was on par with the start in LA for sloppiness, even if three of those walks were ordered.
Paul Konerko - 1 for 4, HR - Welcome back!
Gordon Beckham - 2 for 3, RBI - It's not a great sign when Gordon has the best offensive night, it's a straight-up bad sign when it's not even a remarkable night for his standards.
Luis Mendoza - 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, BB, 6 K, HR, 85 pitches - 3 shutdown starts, mid-90's heat, I'm not even sure he's mediocre anymore.
Sale had recorded of all of one 1-2-3 inning heading into the 7th, so in a sense it was time for him to pay his toll after yielding back-to-back singles to Moustakas and Escobar. The inscrutable scouting report the Sox had on Alex Gordon aided Sale to another strikeout, but with two-straight unfavorable matchups coming up in Perez and Butler, RV and his ace were in a tough spot.
They elected to walk Butler, who had homered, to face Perez, who had doubled, and wound up giving up...yet another a double. That was certainly a bad result, but admittedly was better than another homer. Sale's pitch wasn't in a bad place--just below the strike zone--but it was the third changeup of the at-bat, and Perez timed it enough to scoop it up to the left field and drive in the deciding blows.
Things Would Be Different If...
Ventura doesn't go from a charismatic miracle hire one night to a dunce the next, but it wasn't a night where he made himself popular with his strategy. Two intentional walks to Jeff Francouer to get to Brayan Pena worked out early in the game, but also gave up perfectly good opportunities to retire Francouer, who even with his homer against Sale in their last meeting, can't be said to have him under his thumb.
The third intentional walk of Butler didn't work out, didn't bring up an easy out in Perez, and with Crain ready in the pen, seemed like the lesser of two tinkering moves Robin could have made. An attempt to have pinch-hitter DeWayne Wise bunt in the middle of an 8th inning rally wasn't popular either.
I'm sure everything Robin does tomorrow will be awesome.
Konerko and Sale (velocity) both looked healthy, which is good for the long-term. De Aza was pulled for a pinch-hitter in the 8th due to back stiffness, which is quite bad for the long-term. With that a wash, the more immediate annoyances--fourth straight great start against the Sox for Luis Mendoza, loss of a game in the standings to Detroit--carry the day.
Team Record: 65-53, 1.5 games up