Chris Sale has long since exhausted his quota of coming out parties. The All-Star Game appearance, the 15-strikeout game in Tampa, and the White Sox burgeoning national relevance have allowed him to be properly recognized and feared by the outside world.
But still, Sale's Wednesday night outing was his first against the Yankees, and happened to be on ESPN, so it was thrilling to see him with his Sunday Best while the scrutiny was turned all the way up.
The nuts and bolts of a great start were certainly there. 13 strikeouts, three hits, only one walk that didn't come until the 7th inning and after nearly 100 pitches, 14 swings-and-misses, velocity in the 92-96 range, overwhelming with all three pitches, and the appropriately bewildered quotes from the opposition
Mark Teixeira said, “I never faced him before. It’s like facing a closer three times. The guy throws 95-96 from a tough angle, very tall, three plus-pitches. It’s difficult to face a guy like that. There’s a reason why his numbers are so good.”
Jeff Sullivan of Lookout Landing often spoke of longing for Felix Hernandez to have his crowning achievement of a perfect game, something that can forever be pointed as the first article of evidence to argue how great that payer was. That's the same mentality that's at work here. As Sox fans, Sale's is a joy to behold--the most overpowering starter in recent memory--but we want to see his abilities validated, time and again, on bigger stages, against better teams, until there's nothing left to do.
Immediately after the game, Mark Primiano of South Side Sox and Ricky O'Donnell of SB Nation Chicago had a quick exchange that summed up the duality of watching and appreciating Sale this year.
So we have our ace and closer locked down for the considerable future. That's a nice feeling.
— U-God SouthSideSox (@SSS_UGod) August 23, 2012
@sss_ugod If only pitching wasn't so fragile.
— Ricky O'Donnell (@SBN_Ricky) August 23, 2012
We don't know if we're watching the ascent of one of the greatest starters in franchise history, or the healthiest, most productive year Sale will ever be able to produce. Either way, it feels like it deserves more cherishing than the progressive chug of of a MLB regular season allows.
But this season is also Sale's achievement. He not only provides the performance that makes the White Sox look like a top-tier outfit, but his lack of a learning-curve has covered up the loss of Buehrle, Danks, and Gavin Floyd becoming a larger enigma than usual. If there's only one supreme season in Sale's quiver, let it be cemented with a playoff appearance. Seems only right.