CHICAGO (AP) — In his first season as a starter, Chris Sale is settling in nicely.
Sale pitched seven sharp innings and Paul Konerko and Alex Rios backed him with home runs, leading the Chicago White Sox to a 6-0 win over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night.
Sale (5-2) held the Twins to two hits and two walks, striking out six. He has allowed three runs or less in all eight of his starts in his first year as a member of the rotation.
“Part of pitching is finding a groove and rolling with it,” Sale said. “I felt early that I got into a groove and A.J. (Pierzynski) back there calling one of the best games I’ve seen him call in a while. It was fun to be out there.”
Still showing a black eye after getting hit in the face by a pitch last Friday, Konerko had three hits and scored three times.
“It’s only when I look in the mirror that I can see something is wrong with it,” he said.
Konerko connected in the seventh for his ninth homer of the season. He’s hitting .548 (17 of 31) during a nine-game hitting streak and his .381 average for the season is two points better than Texas’ Josh Hamilton for the AL lead.
“You’re always grinding out there,” Konerko said. “I had one good swing the whole night, a really good swing at the end there that turns into a home run.”
Rios sent a two-run homer into the Twins’ bullpen in left field in the fourth, his first home run since April 7 at Texas.
“I think he’s been swinging it pretty good and not really hitting home runs,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Just approach-wise he’s been looking good at the plate, putting in his work and feeling comfortable at the plate.”
The White Sox recorded their fifth shutout of the season and have won five of six. Chicago had lost 9-2 to Minnesota on Tuesday.
“These guys are resilient,” Ventura said. “They find a way to come back and as difficult as yesterday was all the way around to be able to bounce back and put together a game like this all the way around, pitching and the offense, is nice to see.”
The Twins entered the game with the worst record in the AL, but had gone 5-1 on their current road trip. They hurt themselves by making three errors, setting up three unearned runs — Minnesota had committed just one error in its previous eight games. Minnesota has been shut out eight times this season.
“Sale was really good on us,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He didn’t give us much of a chance. Our defense, which has been playing really good, as talked about before the ballgame — I think we jinxed ourselves.”
Scott Diamond (3-1) allowing five runs, only two of them earned, and gave up a season-high nine hits. He left the game with a 1.78 ERA this season.
“He threw the ball well,” Gardenhire said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t make some plays behind him. We made him throw some extra pitches and made him work a little bit harder.”
Sale permitted just one runner past first base and was aided by a pair of double plays. He’s made a seamless return to the rotation over his last three outings after a brief shift to the bullpen, the team’s response to his elbow soreness.
“I felt like I was commanding my fastball well and I threw the changeup for strikes more so than I have been,” he said.
Chicago scored an unearned run in the first on Adam Dunn’s RBI single, helped by an error from second baseman Jamey Carroll. The White Sox tacked on two more unearned runs in the sixth on an RBI double by Pierzynski and an RBI groundout by Orlando Hudson, with right fielder Darin Mastroianni dropping a fly ball during the inning.
NOTES: Joe Mauer reached base three times for Minnesota on a single and a pair of walks. He’s reached base in 13 of his last 18 plate appearances. … Hudson made his first career start at third base. … Ventura said that rookie Addison Reed is now his full-time closer. Reed has converted all four of his save opportunities this season.