The question was on the tip of everyone’s tongue and the forefront of everyone’s minds on Tuesday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field; What’s it going to be like facing your former teammate Chris Sale?
The mark that Sale left on the White Sox clubhouse he used to call home was unmistakable as teammates remembered Sale fondly, not just as a teammate and a competitor but as a friend.
“He was just a great guy. He was just a guy who if you ever needed anything he was there for you,” Todd Frazier said before Tuesday’s matchup. “We became real close over a six, eight month span, and I still talk to him today. He’s a friend you can talk to.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be Sale’s return trip to his old stomping grounds without a good jersey cutting remark. “I think that’d be a great idea,” Frazier replied when asked if he thought it would be good homage to wear the throwback jersey style Sale famously cut up before a start last July. “I don’t know if we can wear the cut-up ones, but maybe we can put some tape around some of the shirts like Edward Scissorhands out there or something. That’d be cool. I think he’d probably chuckle at that too, why not?”
But, all joking aside, at the end of the day the goal for the White Sox was to go out and face the American League’s best lefty on the mound—whether he be a friend or a former teammate was left in the dugout as the team took the field, thirsty for a win.
“He was my teammate for two years and I like him. Now it’s just we are competing against each other,” Jose Abreu said through an interpreter Tuesday afternoon on facing Sale. “He’s with the Red Sox and we are now here and have to face him. I know that he is going to try to do his best and we are also going to try to do our best.”
Unfortunately for the White Sox, things didn’t go their way as the evening which promised a pitcher’s duel and instead delivered a slug fest ended with the Boston taking the match 13-7.
“Who would have thought that with the two starters on the mound tonight that we’d have nearly 150 pitches thrown between them through three innings,” Boston manager John Farrell said after Tuesday’s game.
“I stunk tonight. I didn’t do a whole lot to help us win,” Sale told the media post game. Sale allowed 10 hits and five earned runs in just five innings pitched, marking Sale’s shortest outing of the season and shortest outing since his last start in a White Sox uniform on October 2nd of 2016.
“I don’t think I was very accurate either. I don’t think I was throwing to specific spots, just throwing to general areas, too.” Sale still managed to strike out nine White Sox batters on the evening despite the erratic outing.
So how did it feel for Sale to be back on the mound he called home for seven season? “Different. But the same. I’ve thrown off that mound however many times it was. A little different coming from the first-base side,” Sale said, clearly fueled by bouts of nostalgia as he answered questions with a heartfelt tone in his voice.
“This is where I called home for a long time. A little piece of my heart will always be here for sure. I gave these guys everything I had while I was here, and I’m appreciative they do the same in return.”
As for Quintana, there’s still no real concern. “He’s passing through a very tough moment on the mound, he’s one of the best pitchers in the league and we have plenty of confidence in him,” Melky Cabrera said about Quintana’s struggled through an interpreter after Tuesday’s game.
“He’s just a little up in the zone,” Kevan Smith said. “I’ve told him, when he’s successful he lives in that zone knee to shins, we’re just like six inches above that, and you could tell when he really started thinking about it we started losing control and he was almost too far down,” Smith continued about Quintana’s location Tuesday night.
Quintana’s struggles have cascaded recently, leading him to a 5.60 ERA in his 11 starts this season. But the White Sox have seen what Quintana is capable of, it’s just a matter of getting him out of his own head and helping him regain confidence. “It’s just one of those things where you have to get confidence back,” Smith said. “He has the stuff, obviously we’ve all seen it. He’s just got to go out there, work hard and get back to the Q we all know.”
The White Sox will finish their series with Boston on Wednesday evening at Guaranteed Rate Field, and as for Sale Day, was the lanky hurler glad his return to Chicago is over? “No. It was nothing like that. I was actually looking forward to tonight. Pitching against my buddies, my old team.” Sale said. “Obviously the end result wasn’t what we had expected. By no means am I glad that this is over. I wish I enjoyed it more, but it was something I was looking forward to.”
Until next time, Boston.