Ordinarily, I like to start the day by handing out an American League "Worst of the Night" award, which is just what it sounds like. It is given to a player who put forth a particularly brutal performance the day before.
Hey, what can I say? There's nothing like starting one's day with a little trolling and LOLing.
Today, however, I'm going to try something new. There will be a "Worst of the Night" award today, but not before I hand out a "Best of the Night" award.
The Chicago White Sox are finishing the month of May in style. They've won six games in a row and 11 of their last 12. This hot streak comes largely thanks to their bats, which have been on fire.
On Monday, the spotlight wasn't on Chicago's bats. It was on Chris Sale's left arm, which produced a dazzling performance against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
Sale started the game with a bang by striking out the side in the bottom of the first, with the only blemish being a single by Ben Zobrist with two outs. Just like that, a tone was set for the rest of the evening.
In the end, Sale went seven and a third, allowing one earned run on three hits and two walks. He struck out a grand total of 15 Rays, a new career high.
Sale had everything working. He was locating his mid 90s fastball well, and he had little trouble getting Rays hitters to chase after his breaking pitches. At-bats were pretty much over as soon as Sale got to two strikes.
Of Sale's 15 strikeouts, 11 came on swinging third strikes. He was particularly mean to Sean Rodriguez and B.J. Upton, who each struck out three times against Sale.
You can watch all 15 of Sale's punchouts over at MLB.com.
ESPN's Buster Olney was kind enough to point the historical implications of Sale's strong start:
ELIAS: Chris Sale is the youngest pitcher to strike out 15+ in a game since Mark Prior struck out 16 in 2003.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) May 29, 2012
Sale ended up needing every last one of his strikeouts, as Rays starter Matt Moore was pretty darn good when he was on the mound. His only mistake was an inside fastball to Adam Dunn in the sixth inning that ended up in the seats for a two-run homer. That ended up being the difference in the game, which the White Sox won 2-1.
Will Chris Sale finish the season with an ERA under 3.00?
Sale picked up the win to move to 6-2 on the season, and the rest of his numbers are pretty impressive. He has an ERA of 2.34, a WHIP of 1.01, and a K/9 of 9.52 that ranks third in the American League.
He's been particularly good in the month of May. In six appearances (five starts), Sale has a record of 4-1 and a 1.71 ERA this month, with 35 strikeouts in 31.2 innings pitched.
Don't look now, but Sale is starting to make up some ground in the American League Cy Young race. The only question is whether he can keep this up for a full season, which is a legit concern seeing as how this is his first season as a starter and he's already had to deal with an elbow issue.
We shall see. For the time being, Sale can enjoy his American League "Best of the Night" award. He earned it.
He'll probably earn another one before the season is done.
If you ever want to nominate somebody for American League "Worst of the Night" honors, hit me up on Twitter.