The White Sox ace did his part Monday night. He fired eight innings of scoreless baseball, allowing just one hit -- a single in the first inning. He struck out six, walked three and hit two batters. He needed 100 pitches to complete the eighth inning, and he left the mound with a 3-0 lead.
Too bad the Sox lost 4-3 to the Seattle Mariners because closer David Robertson did not do his job.
Adam Lind's three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning cost Sale what should have been his 15th victory of the season.
Sox manager Robin Ventura is catching a lot of blame for taking Sale out. I won't disagree with anyone who thinks Ventura should have been relieved of his duties long ago, but I'm pinning this loss squarely on Robertson and his battery mate, Dioner Navarro.
Sale hit two batters in the seventh inning and worked his way out of trouble. He walked two batters in the eighth, including a four-pitch free pass to No. 9 hitter Shawn O'Malley. While Sale escaped those jams, it is fair to say his command was starting to slip, so it wasn't a poor decision to not have him face the heart of the Seattle order for the fourth time in the ninth inning.
Robertson is paid $12 million a year to protect three-run leads, and he didn't get it done. He hung a curve to Franklin Gutierrez, who singled to start the inning. After Robinson Cano grounded into a force out, Navarro cost Robertson an out against Seattle slugger Nelson Cruz.
On a 2-2 pitch, Robertson threw a fastball at the knees that had the whole plate, but Navarro caught it in such a way that he snatched the ball from over to the plate into the right-handed batter's box, making it appear as though it was six inches inside. PitchTrax indicated it was a strike, and maybe it would have been with a better umpire behind the plate. But Navarro's poor receiving skills fooled Joe West, who is not a good umpire, and ball three was called. Robertson walked Cruz on the next pitch to put a second man on bring the tying run to the plate.
Robertson recovered to fan Dae-ho Lee on a good curve for the second out, but he missed location badly on a 2-1 cutter to Kyle Seager, who singled to make it 3-1. That brought Lind to the plate representing the winning run. Robertson jumped ahead with a good curve that Lind swung over, but then he missed location by about a foot on a high cutter on the second pitch. Lind did what he should do with that pitch -- he hit it over the fence to win the game.
The Sox have lost five straight, falling to 45-47. They remain nine games out of first place in the AL Central and fall to six games out of the AL wild-card race with six teams to pass.
That is going to be a tall mountain to climb. The thing that's really upsetting about this loss is Sale being denied his 15th win. The team is going nowhere, but as fans, we all want to see Sale get 20 wins. We all want to see him win the Cy Young this year. His presence on the team is one of the few points of pride for this fan base.
This game in Seattle should have been his next step on the road to the Cy Young. Instead, it's just another punch in the gut in another lost season on the South Side.