Sale outduels Hughes as White Sox take series

Sale outduels Hughes as White Sox take series

CHICAGO -- Chris Sale pitched brilliantly in his first start of the 2015 season Sunday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field. Even though Twins starter Phil Hughes matched the White Sox ace almost pitch-for-pitch, Chicago came through with a 6-2 victory. The White Sox move on to a five-game road trip beginning Tuesday in Cleveland after two straight wins, while the Twins fall to 1-5.

Sale allowed just one run on five hits over six innings, striking out eight and walking one. He threw 72 of his 98 pitches for strikes, finishing in the neighborhood of what the White Sox wanted to see after he was sidelined during Spring Training due to an avulsion fracture in his right foot.

"Like I said before, I'm not hurt anymore. I'm back to being a baseball player," Sale said. "It helps when you have some runs in your back pocket, too, especially that early in the game. You try to find a rhythm and try not to mess it up." More >

Hughes yielded three runs on eight hits in six innings, also topping out at 98 pitches. His biggest trouble spot was the first inning, when the White Sox knocked out five straight hits and scored twice. Adam LaRoche drove in one with a run-scoring single, and Alexei Ramirez doubled home a run. LaRoche added his second homer in two games in the third.

LaRoche's solo shot

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Let's get fired up: The days of Sale throwing in the high 90s with his fastball seemed to dwindle once he left the bullpen and moved to the 100-pitch per start rotation days. But the southpaw hit 97 mph four times in the first inning, and then after allowing a run in the third, he touched 98 in an at-bat against Brian Dozier and struck out Joe Mauer looking with a 96-mph fastball.

Putting it away late: With the White Sox clinging to a one-run lead and nobody on base in the eighth, Twins reliever Blaine Boyer was brought in to face a string of four right-handed hitters. He was consistent, for the White Sox, as all four reached base. The biggest shot was Gordon Beckham's two-run blast, scoring Ramirez, who had singled home Avisail Garcia.

Beckham's two-run homer

"I'm as frustrated as anybody right now," Boyer said.

Defensive miscues: Twins left fielder Eduardo Nunez dropped a routine fly ball for a three-base error in the second inning in his first start of the season. Micah Johnson was thrown out at home on Adam Eaton's grounder to third. On the next play, third baseman Eduardo Escobar dropped a fly ball for another error. Despite the two errors, the White Sox didn't score in the inning.

"He didn't let any of the misplays turn into runs," said Twins manager Paul Molitor of the defense behind Hughes. "I have no complaints with what he gave me today."

Good day for Danny: Leadoff batter Danny Santana doubled to drive in the Twins' first run in the third inning. He also singled in the fifth against Sale, giving Santana a second straight multi-hit game. He entered the game 0-for-8 with three strikeouts in his career against Sale.

Santana's RBI double

QUOTABLE
"Obviously it ran through my head a couple times in spring, I was like, 'Oh, I better start throwing a little better because they want to see they're getting something good for what they paid for.' It was just a matter of time, just letting those Spring Training outings blow by and get to the real games." -- White Sox closer David Robertson

"You learn to enjoy those kind of matchups when you're facing the best the game has to offer. You know it's going to be challenging, but that's what players want to be. They want to be challenged. He's tough. He has got that funky delivery and arm slot and three plus-pitches." -- Molitor, on Sale

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Sale and Hughes threw 98 pitches apiece in Sunday's contest. They combined to throw 141 of those pitches for strikes.

STARTING STRONG
In the first five games of the season, the White Sox had four first-inning baserunners in total: Melky Cabrera singles in Game 1 and 3 and walks to Jose Abreu and Garcia in Game 4. They had four singles and a double in the first inning Sunday, scoring twice.

WHAT'S NEXT
Twins: The Twins will have a sellout crowd for their home opener against the Royals at 3:10 CT on Monday. Trevor May will make his season debut for Minnesota in place of the injured Ricky Nolasco.

White Sox: Jose Quintana takes the mound for the start of a five-game road trip in Cleveland, with first pitch coming at 6:10 p.m. CT. The White Sox lost his first start Wednesday in Kansas City, but Quintana emerged with career no-decision No. 40.

Watch every out-of-market regular season game live on MLB.TV.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. Sarah Trotto is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.