Sale navigates early hiccup like a true ace

Sale navigates early hiccup like a true ace

OAKLAND -- Chris Sale has been known to give up a run or two over the course of a game.

During a 4-3 White Sox victory over the A's Monday night at the Coliseum, the left-handed ace actually yielded a trio on four hits in the third inning alone. But one of the keys to sitting atop a rotation is having the ability to limit the damage and get back on track after a misstep.

Sale accomplished that goal by allowing two Billy Butler doubles and a Billy Burns single over his final four innings, improving to 3-0 in his career on Opening Day.

Oakland scored its three in the bottom half of a frame after the White Sox scored four off last-minute Opening Day starter Rich Hill, who was moved up from Tuesday due to Sonny Gray's food poisoning. So it was up to Sale to settle himself and stop the A's moving forward.

"You put some runs on the board and try to go out there for that shutdown inning and try to do a little bit too much. That kind of stuff just got away from me," said Sale, who fanned eight, walked one and threw 67 of his 104 pitches for strikes over seven innings. "Held it together, and thankfully we got out of it."

White Sox introduce team

"He was cranking it up there," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "You know when he's missing high, he's just going to rear back and let it go. I thought he settled down."  

Per Brooks Baseball, Sale averaged 96.4 mph on his two-seam fastball, 87.6 on his changeup and 80 on his slider. He relied a little more on the slider, which he threw 23 times, after the third-inning struggles, and the lefty also trusted in catcher Dioner Navarro, who caught him twice during Spring Training.

Alex Avila was scheduled to start Opening Day behind the plate, but with the A's moving to the left-hander Hill, the switch-hitting Navarro got the call and successfully took Sale out of his comfort zone.

"Just throwing two-seamers in to righties, I don't know if I've ever done that," Sale said. "Really focusing on getting the ball down, too. He was trying to calm me down as well out there, try not to get too hot when things started rolling for the other team a little bit. I think we have something good going."

Monday's win already matched the White Sox high-water mark for games over .500 from 2015, which they achieved once at 18-17. It's also a sort of game the South Siders might not have won in '15.

"It's refreshing, isn't it?" said a smiling White Sox right fielder Adam Eaton. "Most of the time, especially last year, Sale would give up that inning and something would go wrong and we wouldn't end up winning. But Sailor finished really strong."

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