The Texas Rangers did little for most of the night against Chicago’s Chris Sale, except strike out. Once he left the game, that’s when things turned around.
Pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single off closer David Robertson in the ninth inning, and the Rangers beat the White Sox 2-1 after being dominated by Sale on Friday.
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Colby Lewis pitched eight strong innings for Texas, and the White Sox extended their season-high losing streak to eight games.
"These guys believe they can win," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "They’ve been down before, they were down all April and continued to ball and never gave up. We’re starting to get the hits."
Sale retired the first 17 batters and matched a season-high with 14 strikeouts while pitching two-hit ball over eight innings. He joined Hall of Famers Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson by striking out at least 12 in five straight starts, only to come away empty-handed.
"It’s an honor to get my name mentioned with them, but it’s something more for you guys and friends and family. I’m here for one reason and that’s winning ballgames," Sale said. "All the other stuff is more of a distraction than anything, really."
Robertson (4-2) came on in the ninth and ran into trouble with one out when he walked Shin-Soo Choo and gave up a single to Elvis Andrus, putting runners on first and second. He threw a wild pitch to Joey Gallo before striking him out, then intentionally walked Prince Fielder to load the bases.
Moreland, batting for Adam Rosales, lined a two-run single to right before Ryan Rua struck out looking.
"You just try to focus on one pitch — got to win the pitch — and look at the bat as if it’s any other at-bat and not just that situation in the ninth," said Moreland, who is 13 for 45 lifetime as a pinch hitter.
As soon as he made contact, Robertson knew it was a hit.
"I feel awful because of how well Sale pitched tonight," he said. "I went out there and blew it."
The late rally made a winner of Lewis (7-3), who gave up one run and nine hits. He struck out seven and did not walk a batter while winning his sixth straight start against Chicago.
Shawn Tolleson worked the ninth for his 10th save in as many chances. He walked Geovany Soto with two outs and hit Adam Eaton before retiring Melky Cabrera on a bloop to second baseman Rougned Odor in shallow right.
Chicago’s lone run came on Tyler Flowers’ leadoff homer in the fifth, and it looked like that would be enough the way Sale was pitching.
The left-hander did not walk a batter. He tied Johnson’s major league mark by striking out at least 10 in six straight outings and ran his string of consecutive innings with at least one strikeout to 35, the longest current streak in the majors.
But Robertson blew his fourth save in 17 chances. And the Rangers avoided 1-0 losses on consecutive days for the first time since Sept. 9-10, 1966, when they lost back-to-back 1-0 games at the White Sox.
The Rangers nearly got their first baserunner in the fourth, when 1B Jose Abreu bobbled Andrus’ grounder with one out. In one motion, he picked up the ball and threw behind his back to Sale covering the bag. The pitcher made a barehanded catch, beating the runner by about a step.
Rangers: Rua was activated from the 60-day DL after being sidelined since April 10 by a fractured right heel. … LHP Martin Perez (groin, elbow) threw a bullpen session Friday at Triple-A Round Rock. He is expected to resume his rehabilitation assignment with Double-A Frisco on Monday.
RHP Nick Martinez (5-2, 2.76 ERA) looks to shake off his recent slump for the Rangers while White Sox LHP Carlos Rodon (2-1, 3.86) tries to rebound from his first major league loss. Martinez is 1-2 with a 4.63 ERA in his past four starts. Rodon got pounded in an 11-0 loss at Pittsburgh on Monday.