Chris Sale is absolutely filthy. The left-hander poured sliders all night against the New York Yankees, going 7.1 innings while allowing three runs on five hits with one walk and six strikeouts. His 10-12 record truly does not indicate how good he is.
Which makes it all the more impressive that the Yankees pulled out a 6-4 win against the Chicago White Sox.
After a Derek Jeter single up the middle and a Robinson Cano double to the left-center field gap, White Sox manager Robin Ventura decided to pull Sale with one out in the eighth. The Yanks proceeded to put up five runs against the Chicago bullpen, with Eduardo Nunez providing the go-ahead two out double down the left field line.
By knocking out Sale and roughing up White Sox relievers for the second straight game, the Yankees picked up a huge win in the Wild Card race, gaining a game on the Baltimore Orioles, who lost to the Cleveland Indians.
Not to mention, they cannot afford to lose to the lowly White Sox before the American League-best Boston Red Sox come to town this weekend.
But this game was also a playoff litmus test of sorts. Sale is the caliber pitcher the Yankees are going to see should they make the postseason. If they want to advance past the Wild Card playoff and legitimately contend for the World Series, they need to find ways to win games when they face dominant pitchers, much like they did tonight.
The Yankees actually produced their first run of the game with hustle and small ball – the kind of play the long-ball-reliant 2012 Yankees were utterly incapable of.
In the second inning, Vernon Wells hit a bouncing ball up the middle. Gordon Beckham booted it at second base and when he chased after the ball into shallow center field, he slipped again and kicked it even further away. Wells, running hard out the box, turned what should have been a 4-3 ground out into a double.
Later in the inning, with Wells on third and Nunez at first, they pulled the old double-steal play. Nunez broke for second, stopping half way when the catcher threw down to Beckham at the bag. Wells then broke for home, beating Beckham’s throw to the plate and tying the game at one.
The Yankees found a way to score off Sale early, and they found a way to beat the White Sox after knocking him out of the game. They’ll have to keep it up if they want to find themselves playing in October.