Just when Chicago White Sox lefty Chris Sale seemed to be cracking Friday, the Mariners’ bullpen got into the act. Lately, that’s not a good thing.
The White Sox scored four runs in the eighth inning and three more in the ninth as they pulled away for an 11-4 romp over the Mariners at Safeco Field.
Sale (12-7) was magnificent for most of the game in outpitching Felix Hernandez, who gave up four runs in six innings.
But Mark Trumbo followed singles in the seventh by Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano with a line-drive homer and, suddenly, the Mariners had life. They were within 4-3.
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The budding comeback died when Chicago roughed up Fernando Rodney and Rob Rasmussen in the eighth inning.
“It’s the same old thing,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “It’s command. Rodney’s stuff is good. It’s just command. He throws balls down and in when they should be away. It just doesn’t work.
“Rasmussen really just couldn’t find the strike zone the way he wanted to. His command was off as well. Things just got out of hand.”
When McClendon went to the mound to remove Rasmussen, he got ejected for barking at home-plate umpire Quinn Wolcott.
It wasn’t immediately apparent that McClendon knew he’d been ejected; he remained on the mound with his back to Wolcott as David Rollins entered from the bullpen.
“I knew,” McClendon said. “I was arguing balls and strikes. I made my point.”
So did the White Sox, who removed all doubt by scoring three more runs in the ninth inning against Rollins before Cruz closed the scoring by hitting his 37th homer in the bottom of the inning.
Sale gave up just one tainted hit before the Mariners broke through in the seventh — a double in the first inning by Ketel Marte that clanged off the glove of right fielder Avisail Garcia.
Other than that, Sale was overpowering at times in striking out 14 and walking just one.
“He’s always tough,” Cruz said. “He’s one of the toughest guys in the league. But today, all of the breaking pitches he throws were really good. And then when he threw the fastball, it looked like it was 200 (mph).”
Hernandez (14-8) matched zeroes with Sale through three innings but gave up single runs in the fourth and fifth before exiting after a two-run sixth inning. His line showed nine hits, one walk and four strikeouts.
The backbreaker was Carlos Sanchez’s two-out, two-run double in the sixth. The way Sale was rolling along, a four-run lead appeared to put the game out of reach.
“I was one pitch away from getting out of that inning,” Hernandez said. “I make that pitch, and it’s a different ballgame. You can’t make any mistakes (when facing Sale). You know it’s going to be a tight game. He’s tough.”
But the Mariners cracked Sale after Cruz led off the seventh inning with a grounder through the right side for a clean single that saved official scorer Darin Padur from some extra scrutiny.
Cruz’s single also extended his streak to 31 games of reaching base safely — a career best and the longest this season by an American League player.
Cano followed with a single to center. After Sale got a borderline call from Wolcott for a strikeout against Franklin Gutierrez, Trumbo sent a liner over the right-field wall.
That quickly, the Mariners cut a four-run deficit to 4-3.
Rodney and Rasmussen gave it back and more.
Melky Cabrera led off with a single against Rodney and went to third — stopped at third, actually — when Adam LaRoche’s one-out drive to right eluded a diving Cruz for a double.
A walk to Alexei Ramirez loaded the bases and prompted a pitching change to Rasmussen, recalled earlier in the day from Triple-A Tacoma, for a lefty-lefty matchup against Carlos Sanchez.
The crowd of 35,770 wasn’t kind to Rodney as he departed.
The move didn’t work, either.