Sale leading top-of-the-line efforts by starters

Sale leading top-of-the-line efforts by starters

CHICAGO -- How dominant has the White Sox pitching staff been over the last two weeks or so?

So strong that they don't even know how good they are.

Jonathan Herrera's pinch-hit double off of Chris Sale in the seventh inning of Saturday's 5-1 victory over the Cubs marked more than the first run scored by the North Siders in the two games at Wrigley Field. It also stood as the first run allowed by the White Sox over the past 30 innings, a streak that was their longest since tossing 27 straight in 2010 and a streak that seemed to surprise at least one party involved.

"Thirty innings? Was it?" said smiling catcher Tyler Flowers. "I didn't know that."

Here's a few more numbers that might surprise Flowers.

Flowers on win vs. Cubs

White Sox starters feature a 1.99 ERA over their past 11 games, with 80 strikeouts in 77 games. They have allowed the one run in the last two games against the Cubs, but also have permitted just two runners to reach third base.

And then there's Sale (8-4), who has gone beyond descriptive terms as he closed out his impressive first half's work with 10 K's on Saturday.

"Four-time All-Star is my thought when you say that," pitching coach Don Cooper said of his ace. "Top of the line."

Sale worked one batter into the eighth during his first career start at Wrigley, striking out 10, walking one and giving up just six hits. On May 6, Sale's ERA stood at 5.93 which is fairly hard to believe.

Since that point, the southpaw has worked 92 innings, yielded 56 hits and 18 earned runs, walked 13 and struck out 131. Nine of his last 10 starts have produced 10-plus strikeouts.

"His overall command has gotten better," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon of Sale, who he watched up close while managing the Rays. "But his changeup is elite."

"I'm just trying to keep it going," said Sale, who threw 78 of his 115 pitches for strikes and topped the Cubs' Jon Lester in the process. "I don't really know what it is or how it is. Just go out there and try to do your job as a pitcher. That's really it."

Cooper believed that Sale could have been even better on Saturday, which is a scary proposition for the rest of baseball. He thought Sale was "going a little too hard," as evidenced by his changeup checking in at 89 or 90 mph in the first two innings. He also has been more consistent with all of his pitches.

"Obviously, he pitched a good game, but I've seen him better," Cooper said. "I'll take this every time, but I've seen him better."

Sale's success is of course sustainable, and the same holds true for the rest of the staff. They hope to continue keeping games tight, giving the offense a chance to hit them back into contention.

"I'm not a stat guy or anything," Sale said of his team's nine wins in 11 games. "But if we keep winning games, we're going to put ourselves in a pretty darn good position."

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