Randal Grichuk had no difficulty with Chris Sale on Tuesday night. His St. Louis Cardinals teammates weren’t as fortunate against the Chicago White Sox ace.
Grichuk had three hits, including his seventh homer, against the talented left-hander, but the Cardinals lost 2-1 on Tyler Flowers’ 11th-inning home run against Miguel Socolovich.
“That was the first time facing him,” Grichuk said. “I felt pretty comfortable up there; I saw the ball well off of him. He’s got great stuff. I just kind of saw it well.”
Grichuk struck out in the first inning, one of Sale’s 12 strikeouts. He walloped a game-tying homer on a changeup in the fourth, a 448-foot rocket into the second deck in left, doubled in the sixth and singled in the the eighth when the Cardinals stranded two runners.
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Sale didn’t figure in the decision, but became just the second major-league pitcher to record at least 10 strikeouts in eight consecutive starts. Pedro Martinez, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 26, had nine straight starts with 10 or more strikeouts in 1999.
Sale, who could be the starter for the American League in the All-Star Game on July 14 in Cincinnati, is 6-4 with a 2.87 ERA and 141 strikeouts in 101 1/3 innings. He struck out every player in the Cardinals starting lineup. Take away Grichuk and the Cardinals were 3-for-25.
It’s not that Grichuk would like to face Sale every game, but he never will turn down an opportunity to take his cuts against left-handers. He is 13-for-44 (.295) against them this year.
“Like I said, it felt like a pretty comfortable at-bat,” Grichuk said. “I feel pretty confident against lefties to start with. I could kind of see it a while off of him. He blew it by me there in the first AB, but I still felt comfortable. I went into the dugout and felt good about the at-bat even though he did K me up. I went into the other at-bats confident and put good swings on good pitches.”
Grichuk was surprised how far his home run traveled, although he said: “I got it pretty well.”
“I was a little out in front of it, but I put a good swing on it,” Grichuk said. “I knew I hit it pretty high, but I didn’t know how far it would travel. I’m glad it got out.”
Xavier Scruggs was at the opposite end of the spectrum. Scruggs, who had been 4-for-7 in his last two games, was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts against Sale. Scruggs finished 0-for-5.
“You always want to face the best,” Scruggs said. “But yeah, he had his stuff today and hats off to him. He was just mixing pitches well. He has a big arsenal to get you out with, whether it be curveball, fastball, changeup. He has command of all three of those and he can get you out with all of them. He’s definitely one of the best (pitchers) I’ve seen so far.”
Sales’ deception is as difficult to combat as the effectiveness of his pitches.
“He has a funky-type delivery. You don’t see that every day, especially coming from a lefty,” Scruggs said. “It’s tough to pick up at times, but he definitely had his stuff today. He was on. A big part of it is deception and the fact that he throws hard and has command of all his pitches. Deception definitely plays a big part of it as well.”