CLEVELAND -- Chris Sale didn't pitch like the White Sox No. 1 starter during Saturday afternoon's 9-4 Indians victory at a cold and rainy Progressive Field.
After the team's fifth straight loss to start this 10-game, three-city road trip, the 24-year-old certainly comported himself with the class and maturity of an ace-hurler.
The talented southpaw took the blame for this defeat, in which he gave up a career-high eight runs on eight hits over 4 1/3 innings. Sale also allowed two home runs and hit two batters.
Simply put, it was the worst start of his young, but All-Star quality, career.
But Sale was more disappointed than beating himself up postgame. He was especially bothered by a 91-mph fastball that hit Michael Brantley during a six-run Cleveland fifth, a pitch that came immediately after Mark Reynolds crushed a hanging slider for a game-breaking grand slam.
Home-plate umpire Ed Hickox warned Sale and both benches, which the hurler completely understood. Sale explained in detail how that particular pitch was born out of frustration and not out of intent.
"Brantley was just me being an idiot honestly. Going out there and trying to overthrow, trying to blow it by him," said Sale, who walked two and fanned three. "I was trying to go out there and get more, just be better than I am. Unfortunately it got away and hit him and I understand that's a real tough spot to be in.
"Not only does that look bad on my part but it looks bad on my team. That's not what we are about and that's not what I'm about. On top of that, you now have targets on some of these guys in here and it's not their fault that I went out and gave up eight runs today.
"It's not their fault that the grand slam left the yard. That's on me," Sale said. "With all that said, I had no intentions of doing that. I don't think I ever will."
Robin Ventura's crew actually took a 2-0 lead against Zach McAllister (1-1), scoring in the first on Reynolds' throwing error off of Alex Rios' grounder to first and Paul Konerko's single to right. Conor Gillaspie and Alexei Ramirez opened the second with back-to-back singles, but Tyler Flowers and Alejandro De Aza both struck out and Jeff Keppinger grounded out to second. The White Sox had one other hit into the seventh, until De Aza connected on a two-run homer off of reliever Bryan Shaw.
"He was locating very good and he's one of those sneaky guys that the ball gets on you," said Rios of McAllister, whose one earned run allowed over 6 1/3 innings also included ending Rios' 16-game hitting streak dating back to last season. "He was just managing his pitches very well.
"Command of his fastball today was tremendous," said Cleveland manager Terry Francona of McAllister. "He started the game out, we have an error, we give up a couple runs, we come right back and he settled in throwing a lot of quality strikes with his fastball."
Nick Swisher immediately tied the game in the first inning with a two-run homer off of a hanging Sale changeup after Ryan Raburn drew a two-out walk. Cleveland pushed across a run in the third on Reynolds' single and the deciding fifth began with Asdrubal Cabrera's single, Raburn's double and Swisher getting hit by a pitch. Deunte Heath replaced Sale three batters later with Brantley on first, and his first offering was belted to center for a Yan Gomes homer covering 415 feet.
A final pitch count for Sale checked in at 87 and 56 for strikes, with an apparent reliance on his slider and changeup.
"Guys were kind of sitting speed more than breaking ball/fastball," Ventura said. "There's not a big enough difference in those speeds."
"Just leaving bad pitches to good hitters," Sale said. "Nothing more to really say than that was just a terrible, terrible day. Our team needed a better effort and deserved a better effort and I just didn't give it to them tonight."
There was a moment during the sixth inning of Saturday's setback that pretty much summed up the White Sox road trip to date, marking its first 0-5 start away from home since 1972.
Adam Dunn worked the count full to open the frame against McAllister, and the deciding pitch looked to be well outside, sending Dunn in a full trot down to first base. But Hickox called strike three, a fact unbeknownst to Dunn until he reached first base.
Dunn turned back toward home plate with a "You've got to be kidding me" look on his face. It has been that kind of exasperating week for the White Sox. It was that sort of exasperating day for Sale.
"I'm not here to make excuses," said Sale, who made two quality starts to begin the season. "Just a bad day and I didn't get it done and I'll work these next four days and do everything I can to change this."
"It'll take one good game where we get consecutive good at-bats and score a couple of runs. It'll get us going," Rios said. "I'm not worried right now. It's still early and we have guys that can do the job."