'Hybrid' Sale battles early, cruises with big lead

Lefty endures tough first inning, strikes out six over six innings in White Sox rout

'Hybrid' Sale battles early, cruises with big lead

DETROIT -- It would be easy to assume that Chris Sale turned in another masterful mound performance Saturday by simply glancing at the White Sox 12-3 victory over Detroit at Comerica Park.

In reality, the various levels of Sale as one of the game's top starting pitchers were on display in Motown.

Sale threw 28 pitches in a first-inning battle, when the Tigers grabbed a 1-0 lead. Ian Kinsler worked him for five, the Miguel Cabrera at-bat went nine and old friend Victor Martinez took seven before grounding out. Twenty-three of those 28 went for strikes, while 11 of those 28 touched 97 or 98 mph, per MLB.com Gameday.

A perfect example of Sale's nastiness was peppering Kinsler with fastballs at 97, 97, 97 and 98, before striking him out with an 82-mph slider. Sale also fanned J.D. Martinez with Cabrera on second and two outs.

"You have to bear down a little bit on that trio," Sale said. "Now there [are] four of them from Kinsler to [Yoenis] Cespedes, and even J.D. Martinez. Those guys are tough.

"So you want to do what you can, but not let it get out of control, because they can get it out of control in a hurry. I feel great. I don't know if it's taking more time off in the spring and not throwing as much, but I'm not going to complain."

Once the White Sox offense staked him to a double-digit lead, Sale went into cruise control. He worked his way through six innings and 101 pitches, striking out six, walking one and trying to get outs as quickly as possible.

J.D. Martinez's solo homer leading off the fourth was part of the plan of challenging the Tigers, but maybe saving some of his best bullets.

"I don't know if it was in eco-boost mode, but he does kind of go into a hybrid of conserving the velocity and things like that," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura. "Great pitchers always do that. If they get a big lead, you can save something for later."

"At that point, you're trying to eat as many innings as you can," said Sale, who is 5-2 in his last nine starts vs. the Tigers. "It would have been nice to extend it longer, but after that tough loss like yesterday, it's nice to come here and get that deep breath, exhale a little bit and here we go."

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