CHICAGO - Lanky left-hander Chris Sale continued his quest toward his first 20-win season, striking out 11 and scattered six hits as the Chicago White Sox topped the visiting Oakland A's 7-3 on Sunday.
In his third outing of 10 or more strikeouts this season, Sale (14-3) once again was nothing short of outstanding, giving up just two solo home runs while not allowing a walk to the A's (61-53).
The White Sox, meanwhile, remained in first place in the American League Central, improving to 62-51.
Sale gave up just three hits while striking out nine batters in the first five innings, while protecting a close 1-0 lead.
In the first, Josh Reddick struck out swinging, but was able to reach base when Sale was charged with a wild pitch. But the next batter, Yoenis Cespedes, struck out swinging to end the inning.
In the third, Cliff Pennington led off with a single, only to be subsequently erased when he was tagged out in a rundown after leading off first base too far.
In the fifth, the A's threatened to break things open when Adam Rosales and Pennington reached base on back-to-back, two-out singles. However, Jemile Weeks ended the threat when he struck out swinging.
The White Sox failed to score in the first inning, despite having three runners on base via a throwing error, fielder's choice and single, stranding two runners at the end of the inning.
But they made up for their first-inning shortcoming in the third. Alejandro De Aza walked, went to third on a throwing error on a fielder's choice by A's shortstop Pennington (Gordon Beckham was safe at first), and then De Aza scored on Adam Dunn's sacrifice fly to deep left-center. Alex Rios followed with a double, but Beckham was thrown out at the plate trying to score from first, ending the inning with just one run scored overall.
The White Sox almost added another run in the bottom of the fifth when Beckham's long drive to deep center field was grabbed at the wall by A's center fielder Coco Crisp.
Sale gave up a solo home run (14th of the season) to designated hitter Jonny Gomes in the top of the sixth, tying the score at 1-1. Cespedes followed with a two-out single, but Sale struck out Chris Carter looking to end the inning.
The White Sox came back in a big way with a five-run sixth inning. Rios singled to left, followed by A.J. Pierzynski's 23rd home run of the season, putting Chicago back ahead 3-1. Dayan Viciedo doubled into the right field corner, followed by an RBI single from Dewayne Wise, whose contract was purchased Saturday from AAA Charlotte.
Third baseman Ray Olmedo followed with a single to left and reached second following a throwing error by A's left fielder Cespedes that allowed Wise to safely reach third. De Aza followed with a two-out walk to load the bases for Beckham.
That was a bad choice for losing A's starter Bartolo Colon (9-9), as Beckham came through with a two-run single off his old teammate, scoring Wise and Olmedo, increasing the White Sox lead to 6-1. In the resulting throw to the plate, Beckham went to second while De Aza advanced to third.
That spelled the end for Colon, as left-handed reliever Jerry Blevins was brought on to try to extinguish the White Sox rally, only to walk the first batter he faced, Dunn, before Rios ended the inning by hitting into a fielder's choice.
"I thought he was real good early on," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Colon. "Pierzynski hit that home run and then it looks like (Colon) was back on. Early on, I thought his stuff was good and I thought it was going to be another close pitcher's battle."
For his part, Colon was matter-of-fact about how the game got away from him.
"I didn't do nothing different," he said through an interpreter. "The likely thing is they (White Sox) saw the ball better. I used too many fastballs in that inning. I should have mixed up my pitches more.
"Everybody knows I'm a fastball pitcher. I should have made some other pitches. My control was OK, but some of my pitches were just up a little bit."
In the top of the seventh, Rosales hit his second home run of the season, an estimated 407-foot blast to deep center, to close the White Sox lead to 6-2.
After getting Pennington to ground to second, Sale was relieved by Nate Jones, earning a rousing standing ovation from the 25,106 fans on hand.
When Colon asked about Sale and whether, as a 39-year-old major league veteran, he gets up more for games against young potential stars like the 23-year-old Sale, Colon demurred.
"He's a great pitcher," Colon said of Sale. "He's a young guy, but I don't care about that. I still have to go to the mound and pitch my game and do my job."
After Pierzynski led off the bottom of the seventh with a single, a rather odd play followed. A's third baseman Rosales and shortstop Pennington collided while trying to make the play on a grounder by Alexei Ramirez. Pennington managed to recover to throw out Ramirez at first.
But while the A's nonchalantly thought the play was over, Pierzynski smartly continued around the bases and scored from first, with the A's not having anyone near home plate to challenge Pierzynski.
It was just another example of the mental lapses by the A's throughout the game that also led to three errors.
"It wasn't our best defensive day," Melvin said. "The play that was embarrassing obviously was when Pierzynski went all the way around."
Addison Reed came on in the top of the ninth, giving up a solo home run to Derek Norris, but did not earn what would have been his 21st save of the season, which would have tied a team record for most saves by a rookie pitcher (Salome Barojas had 21 in 1982).
Sunday marked the end of a nine-game, 10-day homestand for the White Sox, who hit the road for a seven-game trip to Toronto (four games) that starts on Monday, followed by a three-game weekend series at Kansas City.
The A's, meanwhile, have a day off Monday before continuing their road trip with a three-game set at Kansas City. Oakland is coming off a 25-game streak that saw it go 15-10 against teams with a winning record. They now play 16 of their next 19 games against teams that are currently under .500, starting with the Royals.
"We have to keep grinding and playing with intensity," Melvin said.
As if the loss - and the way the A's suffered it - wasn't bad enough news, they got more disturbing news after the game. Third baseman Brandon Inge may miss a significant amount of playing time with the dislocated right shoulder he suffered in Saturday's game.
"It may be a little longer than we expected," Melvin said. "We're going to fly him home (Monday) and he's going to have an MRI. You hold out hope it won't be a while, but it could be."
Melvin may have been a bit coy in his response, but may have shown more of his cards when he added, "It'll be tough (to be without Inge). He's meant a lot to the team. That will be a blow."
NOTES: After the game, the White Sox announced they had optioned outfielder Jordan Danks, who hit his first major league home run on Friday, to AAA Charlotte. Jordan is John Danks' younger brother. The Sox expect to add another player to the roster by Monday. ... The White Sox have now won five of their last six series overall and six of their last seven at home. They're also 12-6 over their last 18 games. .... On the flip side, Oakland suffered just its fourth series loss in its last 17. ... White Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis was a pre-game scratch, still bothered by a bruised left wrist suffered after being hit by a pitch in Saturday's game. ... Chicago outfielder Paul Konerko will remain on the seven-day disabled list for concussion symptoms through at least Friday. He was placed on the DL this past Friday after he was elbowed in the temple during at play vs. the Royals last Tuesday. ... The White Sox also transferred left-handed pitcher John Danks to the 60-day disabled list, the team announced.
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