CHICAGO - After giving up a career-high tying eight runs in his previous start, Chris Sale took out his frustrations by pounding an orange cooler in the Chicago White Sox's dugout with both fists.
Wednesday night at U.S. Cellular Field, Sale pounded the strike zone against the Houston Astros in a 6-1 White Sox win to take the three-game series with a second victory in as many nights. Sale went eight-plus innings, struck out 12 and dominated an Astros lineup that was purposely devoid of left-handed hitters.
"Anytime you lose, and quite honestly get embarrassed, you always want to get back on the right foot and get out there and help your team," Sale said. "I'd have loved to be able to close that one out tonight, but it just didn't work out. But I'm very thankful for the opportunity to at least get a shot for it."
Getting the win was good enough.
It was redemption for his last start, an ugly loss at home to the Texas Rangers last week. It was also payback for a tough-luck 2-1 defeat against Houston earlier this season - when Sale struck out 14, didn't allow an earned run and threw an eight-inning complete game at Minute Maid Park.
Despite getting the win in that game, Astros manager Bo Porter didn't forget what it was like for his team to face Sale (10-12). So, he sat all of his left-handed hitters for this game based on Sale holding opposing left-handed hitters to a paltry .199 batting average this season. Among those who didn't play was Astros starting catcher Jason Castro, the reigning American League Player of the Week.
"He was vintage Chris Sale," Porter said. "I mean, he's a strikeout guy, power arm, and he was pretty much lights out. We hit some balls hard, but they made plays. Other than that, he was pretty dominant."
Sale struck out the first three hitters he faced on just 16 pitches and didn't let up. He was on a mission to redeem himself and the Astros couldn't do much about it. Sale proceeded to whiff two more in the second, another two in the third and then fanned the side again in the fifth.
Even more impressively, he did it while clinging to a 1-0 lead the Sox gave him in the first. Chicago loaded the bases with no outs that inning, but only got one run off rookie starter Jarred Cosart on Paul Konerko's RBI single.
"He was pretty much as good as he's been all year and it was just getting ahead and throwing strikes," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of Sale. "He's very tough when he's got everything going and tonight was one of those nights."
Chris Carter's 421-foot solo homer in the seventh - his second extra-base hit of the game - was the only damage Sale allowed on the way to his fourth outing of 12 or more strikeouts this season. Sale became the first pitcher in franchise history to log as many games in one season with at least 12 strikeouts - surpassing Javier Vazquez (2006) and Ed Walsh (1910). The win was more important to him.
"It's something I don't want to really clutter my mind with," Sale said of setting records. "I still have a job to do. Those are things that, at the end of the season when you're at your house you might look back on 'em. For right now, there's only one record that matters and that's the team's record and getting some more wins."
His teammates made sure that happened this time against the Astros, scoring four runs in the seventh to break a 1-1 tie. Avisail Garcia's three-run homer to center field, his first as a White Sox player, highlighted the inning. Garcia led Chicago's 10-hit offensive splurge by going 3-for-4 with three RBIs, while Leury Garcia (no relation) scored twice and drove in a run hitting leadoff in his first start at shortstop for the Sox.
Chicago added another run in the eighth for insurance and Sale picked up his 10th win of the year.
He started the ninth, but was replaced after walking leadoff hitter L.J. Hoes - giving the announced crowd of 15,961 a chance to salute his effort as he left the mound to the song, "Come Sail Away."
NOTES: White Sox SS Alexei Ramirez got his first night off after playing in 131 straight games to start the season. Rookie Leury Garcia, acquired in the recent deal that sent RF Alex Rios to the Texas Rangers, started at shortstop. ... Chicago will now embark on a 10-game road trip, starting in Boston on Friday. ... The White Sox wore their 1983 throwback uniforms, at Sale's request. ... The Astros started a lineup with all right-handed hitters against Sale, opting to sit Jason Castro, the reigning American League Player of the Week. ... Porter still hasn't received an update on injured catchers Max Stassi and Carlos Corporan, who are both on the seven-day concussion disabled list.