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CWS@TOR: Sale strikes out six over seven innings

TORONTO -- With a series victory in their sights, the White Sox handed the ball to their staff ace for Thursday's finale.

Chris Sale didn't disappoint, but the Blue Jays' ace was even better.

The White Sox wasted a strong effort from Sale as their bats were unable to solve Toronto's R.A. Dickey and settled for a series split with a 3-1 loss in front of 18,015 at Rogers Centre.

"He threw fine, gave up a couple hits here and there, but stuff-wise, he was good," manager Robin Ventura said of Sale. "We just have to clean it up and score some runs. Against R.A., that's just tough luck, because he had it going."

Sale rebounded from a dismal outing in which he allowed a career-high eight runs in a loss against Cleveland, the only time this season he hasn't recorded a quality start.

The southpaw ran into some trouble in the first, allowing a leadoff single to Rajai Davis, who proceeded to steal second and third before scoring on an Edwin Encarnacion base hit to left to put Toronto in front, 1-0.

Sale quickly put the first inning behind him, though, settling in and finding a groove as he retired eight consecutive batters after a second-inning walk until hitting Emilio Bonifacio to start the fifth.

Bonifacio advanced to third on a throwing error by Sale, who threw his pick-off attempt at first base into the dirt and past Adam Dunn. Dunn then made an error of his own on a grounder by Munenori Kawasaki, allowing Bonifacio to score before Davis won a nine-pitch at-bat with Sale that ended in an RBI double to give Toronto a 3-0 lead.

What Sale was most upset about after his start was allowing Toronto to run on him -- the Jays stole three times in the first inning alone -- and his costly throwing error.

"You have to know what's going on. [Davis is] probably the fastest guy in the league -- up there, anyway," Sale said. "Just have to focus a little bit more and realize what's going on."

Sale allowed nothing after that, but it didn't matter, as Chicago's bats had no answers for Dickey and managed just one run off Toronto's bullpen a night after matching a season high with seven runs scored.

Catcher Tyler Flowers hit an RBI double off reliever Aaron Loup in the eighth, but was stranded at second base to end the White Sox's threat.

The backstop was pleased with Sale's outing and ability to bounce back after the worst start of his season. Toronto's hits, Flowers said, did not come on bad pitches, and the result -- Sale's second loss of the season -- is not something he should hang his head about.

"I thought he threw the ball, obviously, a lot better than he did last time with a little more conviction with every pitch, too, and executed pretty much every pitch for the most part," Flowers said.

Sale lasted seven innings and allowed three runs -- two earned -- on four hits, walking one and punching out six.

"Location was good for the most part, but some things happened," Sale said. "I made a stupid throwing error at first. I'd like to believe I had him picked off."

His opponent was dominant.

Dickey retired 11 consecutive batters to start the game before Alex Rios recorded Chicago's first hit with a two-out single in the fourth. The White Sox only got one more hit off Dickey after that -- an infield single by Dayan Viciedo in the fifth -- and looked completely fooled by the right-hander's knuckleball.

The 38-year-old Dickey left the contest after six innings for precautionary reasons after experiencing back and neck tightness that he said he initially felt in his last start in Kansas City. Dickey walked one while striking out a season-high seven batters.

He needed only 64 pitches to get through six and recorded 14 swinging strikes, a season high.

"I had a knuckleball tonight where I could have pitched a complete game," said Dickey, who won his second consecutive contest.

It's that knuckleball that turned him into one of the game's elite, and as far as Ventura's concerned, one of the hardest matchups in the game.

"That's the one thing about him throwing a knuckleball -- if he has a good feel for it and it's moving, it's pretty hard to hit," Ventura said. "It's probably the hardest pitch to hit. He was throwing a lot of strikes, too."

It was Flowers' first time facing a knuckleballer and it wasn't easy for him, particularly his first at-bat, when he went down swinging.

"That's the first time I have seen one, so for me, it was kind of like someone turned off the lights every couple feet as it was coming to you -- it was moving that much, at least the ones to me were," Flowers said. "It's definitely something I think you need repetition to get comfortable with."

Chicago will look to get back on track Friday when it opens up a 10-game homestand against the Twins after finishing a three-city road trip with a 3-7 record.

"It's been a long, rough trip," Ventura said, "so we are ready to go home and hopefully turn it around."

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