By Cody Stavenhagen and Alden Gonzalez
CHICAGO -- White Sox ace Chris Sale breezed through seven-plus innings and the White Sox bullpen held on late, continuing his dominant start to the season and adding to his terrific record against the Angels in a 2-1 victory Wednesday at U.S. Cellular Field.
The Sox didn't need many runs, but Tyler Saladino's shot to left field in the first -- his first homer this season -- gave Sale an early 1-0 lead. Sale did the rest, surrendering one unearned run with three strikeouts and no walks.
"If we can scratch across a couple, play some good defense, the way he's pitching, you feel really confident about him going out there," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "Aces have always been those guys who extend winning streaks and stop losing streaks. For [Sale], he's right there as one of those guys. He's as good as there is in the league."
Sale's performance moved him to 4-0 with a 2.10 ERA. Against the Angels, he is 5-0 with a 1.59 ERA in eight appearances. Mike Trout had two hits off Sale, but the Angels couldn't mount any substantial offense to support starter Garrett Richards, who went 6 1/3 innings and gave up two runs (one earned). The Halos made things interesting late, finally scoring in the eighth, but David Robertson came through with a four-out save to preserve Sale's gem.
"His cutter is as good a pitch as I've seen anybody have in the bullpen," Sale said of Robertson. "He's good. He's going to continue to be good, and that's why we have the confidence in him and he is who he is."
The victory moved the White Sox to 10-5, their best 15-game start since 2006. The Angels fell to 6-9 and have lost five out of six. They've been held to four runs or fewer in 12 of their 15 games and sport the second-lowest OPS in the Major Leagues.
"We're not scoring runs," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "A lot of guys have pitched good baseball with not a lot to show for it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Not so fast: Trout reached base with his second single in the fourth and tried to become the first Angel in scoring position. With one out, Trout attempted to steal second, but catcher Alex Avila delivered a strike to the bag and Brett Lawrie made the tag for the out. Albert Pujols then struck out looking to end the inning. Trout finished 3-for-4 with three singles, two off Sale, but got caught on the basepaths twice.
"Any time you can keep the ball out of the air, extra bases, with him, that's the key," Sale said. "He's a guy that can put the ball in the seats, in the gap, whenever, however. ... Keeping him at bay, 2-for-3, I guess. I'll take that."
Still winless: Richards has pitched pretty well in his four starts, but he's still winless, largely because being the Opening Day starter has matched up against some of the game's best pitchers. He lost to Jake Arrieta on Opening Day and Cole Hamels on April 9, then faced little margin for error against a dominant Sale. Richards issued four walks and four hits, but dropped his ERA to 3.00.
"I think it makes me a better pitcher," Richards said of facing another team's best starter. "I have to be better than I was in the past. Being a No. 3 or a No. 4 in the rotation, you can kind of just go out and pitch your game. But knowing that you're facing up against another team's ace, I think it's brought my game to the next level. I'm more focused, and I'm thinking more while I'm out there." More >
Easy manufacturing: After Avila led off the fifth with a double to right-center, Austin Jackson delivered a well-placed bunt down toward third. Richards rushed to the ball, but his throw to first went high and wide, resulting in Avila scoring and Jackson moving to second as the White Sox went up, 2-0.
"Especially with Alex at second base, it has to be a pretty good bunt to get him over there," Ventura said. "And it was a very good bunt."
Slip 'n slide: The Angels tacked on a run on a two-out, pinch-hit single from Rafael Ortega in the eighth, but made a key out on the bases in the ninth. White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier made a nice play on Trout's sharp grounder, but threw low to first. The ball bounced away from Jerry Sands, but Trout tripped while trying to break for second base and was thrown out while attempting a headfirst slide on the outside part of the bag. The next batter, Pujols, grounded out to end the game.
"I just slipped," Trout said. "I don't know if it was from [the grass] being wet or what. Obviously I was running hard. Seeing the throw kind of got me, seeing it go by. I was heading off to second and I just slipped. The half-step just got me out. ... It was one of those things where, if you don't get a good jump, you don't go."
"These guys are proven hitters. These guys are going to come around, our offense is going to click. It's inevitable. You have to hang with them, and you have to keep grinding together." -- Richards, on the Angels' offense
"You can have as much talent as you want, if you don't know the game and you're not willing to sacrifice yourself, it's going to be tough. We have a bunch of guys in here willing to do what it takes to win together, not win individually. And a bunch of guys who aren't really worried about stats in here, we're worried about wins." -- Sale, on club's 10-5 start
The White Sox entered Wednesday with two stolen bases in four attempts. They swiped three in four attempts against former Angels catcher Geovany Soto.
Umpires confirmed a call in the eighth when Johnny Giavotella beat out a slow chopper to Frazier with two outs. Frazier charged the ball and fired a one-hopper to first, where Sands appeared to bobble the ball as Giavotella reached the base. The call stood after a one-minute, 15-second review and Frazier was charged with an error, allowing the inning to continue and leading to an Angels run.
WHAT'S NEXT Angels:Jered Weaver starts the finale of a four-game series at U.S. Cellular Field on Thursday, with first pitch at 11:10 a.m. PT. Weaver was roughed up by the Twins five days earlier, giving up four runs on eight hits and two walks in 4 1/3 innings. He has a 1.99 ERA in 13 career starts against the White Sox.
White Sox: Left-hander John Danks (0-2, 7.94 ERA) will look to rebound after rough performances in his first two starts Thursday at 1:10 p.m. CT. Danks allowed five runs over 6 1/3 innings in his most recent start against the Rays.
Cody Stavenhagen is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and Facebook , and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.