CHICAGO -- Just as the Cubs did in the last game of the crosstown series at Wrigley Field in July with Jake Arrieta getting the win, the White Sox called on their ace, Chris Sale, to avoid a sweep, and the lefty delivered.
Sale tied a career high with 15 strikeouts over seven innings and Jose Abreu, Alexei Ramirez and Melky Cabrera belted solo home runs to lead the White Sox to a 3-1 Interleague victory Sunday over the Cubs to avoid a sweep. The loss snapped the Cubs' winning streak at nine games.
"He was ready to go. He was fantastic today," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Sale, who also struck out 15 on May 28, 2012, against the Rays. " I don't know, not too many times he's been better than that. He's had some that were close to it but right from the start of the game, when he strikes out the guys in the first inning, strikes out the side, you're feeling pretty good about it."
It was Sale's 29th career double-digit strikeout game, a franchise record. The lefty struck out the side in the first, fourth and seventh innings, and held the Cubs without a hit until Dexter Fowler singled with one out in the sixth. It was a perfect match for Sale against the Cubs, who entered the game leading the Majors in strikeouts.
"The best thing we did was get his pitch count up enough to get him out of there before the ninth inning," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.
Dan Haren took a line drive off his right ankle in the fourth, but stayed in the game, giving up all three homers to take the loss, which was the Cubs' second in their last 17 games. The Chicago teams split the crosstown series, 3-3.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Going solo: With the sheer dominance shown by Sale, the White Sox didn't need much offense to secure this victory. Sale received support courtesy of solo homers from Abreu in the third, Ramirez in the fourth and Cabrera in the fifth.
"That was my focus, try to keep my hands inside and try to hit the ball to the other side," said Abreu through interpreter and White Sox Spanish language broadcaster Billy Russo of his opposite-field homer. "I wasn't expecting to hit a homer, but that's how it goes."
Missed opportunity: Fowler singled with one out in the sixth for the first hit off Sale, who then walked Chris Denorfia. One out later, Anthony Rizzo was hit by a pitch for the 24th time, most in the Major Leagues, to load the bases. But Sale struck out Jorge Soler to end the inning. Soler saw a 99-mph fastball and an 87-mph slider, which ended the at-bat. Soler hit his sixth home run with two outs in the ninth but that was off White Sox closer David Robertson.
"You just couldn't see [Sale's slider]," Fowler said. "My first at-bat, he threw me a slider, and I literally was like 'Whoa.' He's so tall, it was coming out of the side of the batter's eye, especially with a day game. You'd see it out of his hand, and it pops, and then you'd lose it. That made it tough." More >
With two outs in the Cubs ninth, Addison Russell was called out on a ball hit to third baseman Tyler Saladino. But after a review, the call was overturned and Russell was credited with an infield single.
"When you put pressure on yourself, sometimes you collapse. You don't want to do that. I try to face every game with the same mindset." -- Sale, on putting extra pressure on himself to excel, after two straight losses to the Cubs
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Cubs struck out 18 times in the game, matching a franchise high. They also fanned 18 times July 21 in a 13-inning game against the Reds and on May 2 against the Brewers. More >
"Hats off to him," Rizzo said of Sale. "He made us look silly."
THE KING OF SWING (AND MISSES)
Sale produced his 29th career game with double-digit strikeouts and his 11th this season, extending both of his franchise records. He joins Ed Walsh as the only pitchers in franchise history with three consecutive seasons of at least 200 strikeouts.
"I wouldn't say I knew the exact number when they were. But I knew they were getting up there," said Sale of his 15 strikeouts. "It's fun. The crowd gets into it. People in the 'K Zone' are going crazy for me. It's a fun, fun time."
WHAT'S NEXT Cubs: After an off-day Monday, the Cubs return to action Tuesday night with a two-game Interleague series against the Tigers at Wrigley Field. Jason Hammel, who has not been happy about being pulled early in his last two starts, will take the mound. The right-hander is 1-1 with a 4.13 ERA in five starts since the All-Star break. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT.
White Sox: The South Siders begin an important seven-game West Coast swing with a 9:05 p.m. CT first pitch in Anaheim on Monday, playing an Angels squad that they are chasing for the American League's second Wild Card. Carlos Rodon gets the start, coming off of a career-high 11-strikeout performance over a career-high seven scoreless innings against the Angels.