For four innings, we didn't have a game. We had a Chris Sale Perfect Game Watch. And that only came on after two innings of Chris Sale Strikeout Record Watch. Chase Headley's booming, 431-foot home run to left to lead off the fifth wasn't the most polite way to snap back to the reality of an actual baseball game being played Sunday, but it might have been necessary.
Settling for non-historic Sale dominance, the Sox prevented a dreary sweep at the hands of the visiting Padres with a 4-1 win, driven by Sale's first complete game of the season: a two-hit sensation that lasted barely over two hours.
For the pesky offensive drought, the Sox turned to a man who's likely getting replaced in the lineup tomorrow. Paul Konerko, owner of a .215 OBP coming in, had himself a day. His three RBI and six total bases both matched or tied season-highs, and transformed a game that might otherwise have been marked by a mismatched pitching duel.
Konerko broke up Padres' starter Eric Stults' perfect game in the second by turning and lifting a low-and-in fastball into his favorite left field bullpen, and gave Sale more breathing room than he would require by ripping Stults' looping curveball for a two-out, two-run double down the line in the sixth.
That, and Tyler Flowers' one-armed push shot solo home run off another looping curveball in the fifth, was more than Sale would need. He struck out four of the first six batters he faced, mostly via his newly popular and devastating changeup, then shifted to pounding the zone with two-seamers as the Padres shaded more aggressive to stave off the carnage.
His command wavered in the middle innings and he became fly-ball happy on a bad day for it, leading up to the solo bomb from Headley and the single from Tommy Medina that followed and served as the only other hit he allowed all day.
None of Sale's stretches of wildness lasted longer than three pitches. The only 3-0 count he went to all day ended in a Carlos Quentin groundout, he retired the last 14 batters he faced in a row, finished his complete game in a tidy 100 pitches that left no one questioning about the decision to keep riding him, and in 2:08 game, Sale even got everyone home in time for a reasonable meal. The nine strikeouts will lower his rate for the season.
There was a month-long period where these appearances weren't popping up 1-2 times per week and lifting us out of the daily trudge of a .500 baseball team. Let us never speak of it again.
Team Record: 29-29
Next Game: Tomorrow at 9:10 p.m. CT at Los Angeles on CSN Chicago
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