CHICAGO -- Another page of the calendar has turned and the White Sox find themselves at .500 and within reasonable striking distance of the first-place Tigers in the AL Central.
Sunday's dominant performance by Chris Sale gave rise to more optimism as the angular lefty limited the Padres to two hits while striking out nine in a 4-1 victory at U.S. Cellular Field.
Sale made quick work of the visitors, throwing 100 pitches in a complete-game performance that lasted a Mark Buehrle-like 2 hours, 8 minutes.
"I was trying to throw as many strikes as I could," Sale said. "I knew this team was going to come out swinging. . . . I was trying to keep the ball down and get after it a little bit."
Sale, who gave up a solo homer to Chase Headley to start the fifth after a perfect first four innings, pitched the sixth complete game of his career and became the first White Sox left-handed starter to begin the season 5-0 since Buehrle in 2009.
"(Sale) seemed about the same way as he did in the last two or three outings, which is very good," said catcher Tyler Flowers, who contributed a solo homer in the fifth inning. "He definitely has the ability to stump a lineup. I kind of liked what the other team did. I don't think that's a bad approach trying to be aggressive, jump on the first one in there. But it leaves you open to a complete game on (100) pitches."
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn may have to adapt his player personnel strategy if the team continues to hang around in the division.
"We still have a couple of months before we get to the trade deadline," Hahn said. "As we've seen in the first two months, a lot can happen and a lot of plans can change. You lose your right fielder (Avisail Garcia), and that alters how you have to behave.
"The opportunities to win are sacred. If we are in a position where we feel we have a real chance to win, we will address whatever needs we feel exist at that time to enhance those chances. At the same time, we are not going to do anything that's going to compromise our longer-term goals. ... We want to be in position to contend annually."
The White Sox love the potential of young players such as Sale and rookie first baseman Jose Abreu.
And don't forget veteran Paul Konerko, who is playing in his final season. Konerko drove in three runs Sunday with his third home run of the season in the second inning and a two-run double in the sixth to help the White Sox avoid being swept in a three-game series for the first time this year. Konerko victimized left-handed starter Eric Stults (2-6), who gave up four runs on five hits.
"I was just trying to chip in," Konerko said. "I am here to have good days against left-handed pitching."
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