Sales pitch: Ventura calls ace best in the AL

White Sox manager raves about 13-game winner following latest victory

Sales pitch: Ventura calls ace best in the AL

CHICAGO -- Robin Ventura was listening to a reporter's question following a 5-2 White Sox victory over the Blue Jays on Sunday, when the manager interrupted before he could finish.

This particular inquiry dealt with Chris Sale's stature among American League starting pitchers.

"He's the best," said Ventura without hesitation. "You can say I'm biased or not, he's still the best."

Ventura's assessment and Sale's resume both were supported by the left-hander's stellar eight-inning effort at U.S. Cellular Field. In pushing the White Sox to a second straight series victory, Sale became MLB's first 13-game-winner, improving to 13-2, by allowing just a pair of solo homers to Troy Tulowitzki and Junior Lake before giving way to closer David Robertson.

Sale struck out seven, walked two and threw 99 pitches. He needed fewer than 10 pitches to retire the Blue Jays in four of his innings on the hill.

"Today, he was pretty much flawless," White Sox catcher Alex Avila said. "He had really good command with all of his pitches, working in and out. He changed speeds really well with his fastball along with the great command. He was throwing strikes, a lot of strikes, and he did a great job."

"I feel good. There's no doubt about that," Sale said. "[Dioner] Navarro and Avila, those guys have really just kind of carried me through these games. They know what's working on a certain day and they know what fingers to put down in the right situation."

Ventura on 5-2 win

Sunday's effort pushed Sale's career mark to 70-42 overall. He is 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA over his last three starts, and Sale is 7-1 with a 3.64 ERA and 56 strikeouts over 54 1/3 innings in eight home starts this season.

Those 13 wins tie Sale for the fourth most by a White Sox pitcher before the All-Star break since 1933 and are the most since Jon Garland (also 13) in 2005. This effort became especially important in that Nate Jones and Robertson were the only relievers to even warm up, let alone get in the game.

"When I'm on the baseball field, there's nothing I love more than winning. A close second is keeping my guys in the bullpen, too," Sale said. "They've been working their butts off and used a lot and doing a great job. Any time you can get them a day off and freshen them up a little bit, especially with the day off tomorrow too, that's big."

"Definitely one of the best in the game, no question about that," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. "It's obvious when you watch him pitch."

With the deserved accolades and support coming from Ventura and Gibbons, the question is whether Sale gets the same support as the AL starter for the 2016 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard. He's almost certain to earn a fifth straight All-Star nod.

But Sale didn't want any part of that question. He's as humble as he is talented and worried more about facing Houston and Atlanta before the first half concludes.

"That's for you guys to talk about, not me," Sale said. "I still have a couple of more starts I believe. More work to do."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. 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.