The Chicago White Sox needed a big start from ace Chris Sale, and he nearly gave them something historic.
Sale took a perfect game into the seventh inning before finishing with a one-hitter, and Chicago beat the Los Angeles Angels 3-0 on Sunday night to avoid a three-game sweep. The left-hander retired the first 19 batters he faced before Mike Trout's sharp single to center ended the perfect game bid with one out in the seventh, on his 70th pitch.
"I knew warming up in the bullpen I felt loose. My arm felt good tonight," Sale said. "Warming up in the bullpen I felt like I was creating some good stuff and just wanted to transfer that out to the field, and it ended up working out tonight."
Sale (4-2) struck out seven on just 98 pitches for his first career shutout and third win in his last four outings. The one-hitter was Chicago's first since Zach Stewart had one on Sept. 5, 2011, at Minnesota.
The White Sox had lost two straight and were on the verge of being swept by a struggling Angels team. Before Saturday's loss, manager Robin Ventura called a meeting to discuss the team's woes.
"He understands how it's been going," Ventura said of Sale. "So it's one of those you need a guy like that that can go out and put together a game like that and give you a chance."
Sale pithed the third one-hitter in three days in the majors, joining St. Louis' Shelby Miller and Boston's Jon Lester, who both had theirs on Friday night.
Alexei Ramirez's two-run two-out single in the bottom of the seventh drove in Tyler Flowers and Tyler Greene to give Sale the lead and chase Los Angeles' C.J. Wilson. Alex Rios then doubled off reliever Michael Kohn to drive in Ramirez, who had three hits and scored a run.
Sale didn't require much more support than that in a game the White Sox needed badly.
"I think he (Sale) just likes the big games," Flowers said. "I guarantee you he knows everyone was watching on ESPN and that whole thing."
Wilson (3-2) gave up three runs and six hits while striking out three and walking four in 6 2-3 innings. He lost his second straight decision after losing to Houston on Tuesday.
Wilson got no support from his offense. Other than Rios' running catch against the wall on Howie Kendrick's drive in the second, there weren't any close calls for Sale.
"It just goes back to that competitive streak in you. You want to get that guy out there," said Josh Hamilton, who was 0 for 3. "Even though he is having a phenomenal night, you want to hit it hard somewhere, or barrel it up, if they make a play, they make a play, tip your hat. He did a good job."
Except for the seventh, Wilson pitched well enough to give the Angels what would have been a welcome sweep and four-game winning streak. They had lost five of seven before the series and won the first two in Chicago but fell Sunday to 10 games behind in the AL West.
"We need to carry some of the things we did well in this series forward," manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think if there is one thing we saw in this series, is that we have the ability to pitch well and I think we have to carry that forward."
For their part, the White Sox would like to prolong what happened Sunday.
Sale was eight outs away from the White Sox's 19th no-hitter in team history and their fourth perfect game after Philip Humber (2012), Mark Buehrle (2009) and Charles Robertson (1922).
The 24-year-old said he started thinking about a perfect game or no-hitter around the fourth or the fifth, but didn't sound disappointed with the one-hitter.
"I didn't wake up this morning and say I'm going to throw a perfect game or a no-hitter," Sale said. "I come to the ballpark every day when I'm pitching and say I just want to keep my team in this game and I want to win this game."