Things are beginning to look up for the White Sox and Chris Sale. AP PHOTO
ANAHEIM, Calif. - The Angels have seen enough of Chris Sale for a while.
The White Sox can't get enough of him.
Five days after pitching a one-hit shutout against the Angels at U.S. Cellular Field, Sale blanked the struggling but star-studded Halos again, this time striking out a season high 12 batters over 7 2/3 innings in a 3-0 victory that extended the Sox' winning streak to a season high four games.
Relying more on his big slider Friday, Sale (5-2) allowed three hits. Two of his three walks came in the first inning. Running his scoreless innings streak to 23, he lowered his ERA to 2.53.
"He's good. We know that,'' Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "But to come back to back with a lineup like this and go out and do it, I think it's spurts of last year. This is probably the best two games he's had with velocity, control and all that kind of stuff. I think he's growing in to being the guy and going out there and proving it."
"He wants to get better. He wants to be in that elite group. He's proving it."
Alex Rios hit his second homer in two nights in the first inning against left-hander C.J. Wilson (3-3), and Adam Dunn, fighting allergies since the team arrived in California, hit his fourth in the last four games in the ninth. Rios extended his hitting streak to 12 games. Dunn, who also flied out deep to left field, has eight RBI over his last four games.
"I feel like I've had really good at-bats -- really one bad at-bat in the last few days,'' Dunn said.
Left-handed hitting Conor Gillaspie, who leads American League rookies with a .295 average, singled against Wilson in the seventh with two outs to give the Sox a 2-0 lead. The hit to center scored Dayan Viciedo, who had advanced to second running with the pitch on Jeff Keppinger's grounder to third.
"It's nice to get out of that little funk we were in earlier this year,'' Rios said. "When you see guys starting to hit, and guys getting big hits like Conor did and Viciedo, it gives you another perspective. You're seeing things in a different way. Hitting sometimes is contagious so hopefully we can keep this good thing going on.''
Jesse Crain got the third out in the eighth inning when Sale was relieved after throwing 113 pitches, and Addison Reed pitched a perfect ninth for his 14th save in 15 opportunities. Crain has 16 straight scoreless appearances. The Sox are 16-1 when leading after eight innings.
Sale's consecutive scoreless innings streak is the longest by a Sox since reliever JJ Putz reeled off 27 in a row in 2010 and longest by Sox starter since Mark Buehrle (24.2) in 2001. Sale's career ERA against the Angels is 0.38.
"I knew I threw a lot of changeups to those guys last time so once again that was all on Flow [catcher Tyler Flowers],'' Sale said. "I didn't shake him off once. He worked real hard back there. Being able to throw that pitch, not only that pitch, but the changeup, with guys on base, being able to have a catcher like that who can do those kind of things, makes it not easier but a little bit more comforting knowing that you can throw that slider in the dirt and it's going to stay right there and the guys aren't moving up.''
The Sox (19-21) dropped the Angels to 15-27. For all of their hitting problems and defensive woes, they find themselves four games out of first place in the AL Central.
"You got to start somewhere,'' Sale said. "With these four games, we are playing all around great baseball. Just better baseball than the past. We got some guys swinging the bat, getting hot. I gave up a lot of hardhit balls but the defense was right there to back me up. Bullpen arms are coming in and throwing the crap out of it. Jesse has been unbelievable, Reeder has been great. Just keep it rolling and see how long we can take it for.''
After the game, the Sox optioned right-hander Deunte Heath to AAA Charlotte. The team will make a corresponding move on Saturday.
With Matt Thornton as the only left-hander in the bullpen, it's possible the Sox will recall lefty Donnie Veal, who hasn't allowed a run over four appearances and eight innings. Veal has struck out 10 and walked two at Charlotte.
Heath, 27, had an 11.12 ERA in four relief appearances.