Sale fans 13 Yankees, vaulting Sox to sweep

Sale fans 13 Yankees, vaulting Sox to sweep

Sale fans 13 Yankees, vaulting Sox to sweep
CHICAGO -- During Addison Reed's short but successful baseball career, he has served as closer for both Stephen Strasburg and Chris Sale.

His closing work behind Strasburg came during two years at San Diego State. But after finishing off victory No. 15 for Sale during the White Sox 2-1 win over the Yankees before 26,319 at U.S. Cellular Field on Wednesday, Reed drew logical comparisons between two of Major League Baseball's best young starters.

"Both of those guys, they don't care who they are facing, what team it is, what batter it is," said Reed, who recorded two strikeouts in the ninth using his changeup as he picked up save No. 23. "They know they are going to probably be successful. The confidence they have is unbelievable."

This confidence, in turn, spills over to their teammates.

On Wednesday night, Sale's bravado helped the White Sox (68-55) complete their first sweep of the Yankees (72-52) of three games or more since June 15-18, 2000. It was their first home sweep of the Yankees since Aug. 6-8, 1991.

During the 1991 sweep, it's a safe bet that Sale (15-4), now 23, wasn't throwing 95 mph or mixing in devastating sliders and changeups.

The Yankees discovered in this series finale why Sale often gets mentioned as part of discussions centering on 2012 American League Cy Young candidates. Sale pitched 7 2/3 innings and allowed just one run in helping the White Sox maintain their two-game lead over the Tigers, who beat the Blue Jays by a 3-2 margin at Comerica Park.

For the fourth time this season, Sale topped the double-digit mark in strikeouts. He fanned 13 while walking one and giving up just three hits. Sale struck out Ichiro Suzuki three times and Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson two times apiece, as the left-handed hitters finished a combined 1-for-9 against him.

"That's the first or second time I've ever faced him, but, man, he's a pretty good pitcher," said Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher, who finished 0-for-3 against Sale with one strikeout. "Numbers don't lie."

"He's funky -- he has a different kind of motion," said Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. "He sort of steps at the left-handers and away from us. His fastball moves. He throws hard. He gets it up there -- 95, 96 [mph] -- but then he also throws a lot of offspeed pitches for strikes. He's a handful."

Jeter provided the Yankees' only run via a one-out homer, his 13th, to left field, tying the game in the sixth inning. That deadlock didn't last long, as Alex Rios connected for his own one-out solo shot in the bottom of the inning.

It was home run No. 20 for Rios and RBI No. 72, coming on an 0-1, 91-mph fastball from Yankees starter Phil Hughes (12-11).

"Hughes is a guy who throws a high percentage of fastballs, so I guessed right," Rios said. "I knew I hit it good. I didn't know it was going to go out, but I knew I hit it good."

"All-around player, that's the one thing that impressed me about Alex," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "He's been great for us offensively, stealing bases and playing great defense. He's been consistent all year long."

Scoring chances weren't exactly plentiful for either division leader in this contest. The Yankees wasted a leadoff double from Mark Teixeira in the second and a one-out double from Cano in the fourth that barely stayed in the ballpark. The White Sox put two runners on base in the first, third, fourth and eighth, but outside of the Rios homer, they scored only on Kevin Youkilis' third-inning sacrifice fly.

Strikeouts of Casey McGehee and Ichiro to start the eighth ended Sale's night at 109 pitches, with Brett Myers retiring Jeter on a great defensive play by second baseman Gordon Beckham to end the frame. Before Beckham's effort, Sale walked off the field to yet another standing ovation in improving to 7-0 with a 1.17 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings over his last eight home starts.

Those are numbers belonging to a staff ace, the man you would put on the mound to open a playoff series. Just don't try to tell the humble Sale he's at the front of a strong White Sox rotation, as he would give that nod to Jake Peavy, the ultimate competitor in Sale's mind.

Sale won't allow himself to think about being considered a dominant pitcher, even after lowering his ERA to 2.65.

"I try not to; I just try to go with the flow, honestly," said Sale, who threw 70 of his pitches for strikes. "This is a game of ups and downs. You try to not get too up or too down. I wouldn't say that. I'm just happy to be in the situation I'm in.

"Each outing, he does something that was more impressive than the one before," said Reed of Sale. "It's fun to watch, and I'm glad he's on our team."

Reed knows a thing or two about dominant starters. The one he works with professionally helped erase the sting of this past weekend's three-game sweep in Kansas City for the South Siders.

"Winning those first two games and having a chance to sweep after getting swept in Kansas City goes to show what kind of guys we have in here," Sale said. "Every game is big from here on out -- no games from here on out where we can take a night off. It's go time now."

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