White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper would prefer left-hander Chris Sale channel his adrenaline and emotions at a target other than an ice chest in the dugout.
On Wednesday night at U.S. Cellular Field, the Astros saw him find a better mark. Sale allowed one run on four hits with 12 strikeouts in eight-plus innings for a 6-1 victory. He was pulled with a pat on the back from manager Robin Ventura after walking the first batter in the ninth and reliever Matt Lindstrom wrapped things up
Outfielder Avisail Garcia led the way offensively with his first home run for the Sox, a three-run shot to center field in the seventh.
“If you can make the glove your first and last thought and then bring that energy to the glove, I’ve seen it work to where it can take you to heights you’ve never seen before,” Cooper said before the game. “Unfortunately, if you don’t channel that energy, it can take you to depths that you never want to go to.
“Over the course of the year, when his emotions have risen and he hasn’t been able to harness it and channel it, the results haven’t been good. We’re trying to learn from all of that stuff.”
Sale had one of his worst outings of the season Friday in his previous start against the Rangers when he allowed eight hits and eight earned runs. He was caught on video unleashing his frustrations on that cooler and afterward said he was embarrassed about the outburst.
He turned it around early Wednesday when he struck out seven of the first 10 batters he faced through three innings and needed just five pitches to end the fourth. He gave up a home run to Chris Carter with two out in the seventh inning but then recorded his 12th strikeout to keep the game tied 1-1.
Ventura said beforehand he is OK with Sale showing a little fire.
“Guys’ emotions run high when they’re not doing well,” Ventura said. “There are good ones and bad ones. That’s just being competitive. He’s emotional. That’s part of it. When it’s a negative thing to the team or he tries to show somebody else up, that’s a problem.”
The Sox gave Sale an early lead, albeit a small one.
They loaded the bases off Astros rookie right-hander Jarred Cosart with their first three batters before Paul Konerko’s RBI single drove in Leury Garcia for a 1-0 Sox lead.
Garcia pushed the Sox ahead 2-1 in the seventh when he walked for the second time, stole second, advanced on a throwing error and scored with a solid slide into home on a Jeff Keppinger sacrifice fly. Garcia also had an RBI on a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
Cosart brought his ERA down to 1.59 in his eighth career start, giving up one run on seven hits while striking out four but walking five. The Sox stranded eight runners on base in his six innings on the mound.