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The Strike Zone

The White Sox's ineptitude hands Chris Sale the hardest-luck loss of the season

White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale had one of his best starts of the season on Friday, but his offense again didn't support him. [AP]White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale had one of his best starts of the season, but his offense again didn't support him. [AP]

Chris Sale suffered a hard-luck loss on Friday night in the White Sox's 2-1 loss to the Astros in Houston. In fact, it was the hardest-luck loss of the season by a variety of measures. Here's Sale's final line from the night:

8 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 14 K, CG, L

Sale's was the seventh complete game loss of the season, but it was the first since July 21, 2011 (when C.J. Wilson, then of the Rangers, lost to his future team, the Angels, 1-0), that a pitcher took a loss in a complete game in which he didn't allow an earned run. Sale's 14 strikeouts were also a season high for a pitcher who suffered a loss this season, as was his game score of 81.

The two runs scored against Sale both came in the fifth inning, which featured two errors by White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez.  Astros shortstop Ronny Cedeño led off with a slow hopper to shortstop that Ramirez charged only to have it kick of the heel of his glove for his first error. Sale then struck out Jimmy Paredes and got Matt Dominguez to fly to right, at which point, according to the official scorer, the inning should have been over.

Instead, Sale moved Cedeño to second on a wild pitch before walking Trevor Crowe (he got his spikes caught on the mound on the pitch). Sale then appeared to get out of the inning when he got Brian Barnes to hit a grounder to shortstop, but Ramirez chose to take the short throw to second base to get Crowe and threw wild, which allowed Cedeño to score and Crowe to reach third. That tied the game at 1-1, and Jose Altuve eventually plated Crowe on an infield single. Sale then struck out J.D. Martinez to finally end the inning.

Sale's performance improved his ERA to 2.43, his WHIP to 0.90, his strikeout-to-walk ratio to 4.53, and pushed his strikeout rate back over one per inning. But without any support from the White Sox offense (or defense), his record dropped to 5-5; the White Sox are averaging just 2.7 runs scored per game in his dozen starts this season. Only Ricky Nolasco, who is 3-7 with a 3.80 ERA, has received less support this season, getting just 2.2 runs of support per start. Nolasco, of course, pitches for the Marlins.

When it comes to hard luck losses on the scale of Sale's Friday night, no one has had it as hard as James Shields, whose hard luck has followed him from Tampa Bay to Kansas City. Of the seven complete game losses this season, Shields is the only pitcher to have more than one. He lost 2-1 to the A's on May 17 when he posted this line: 8 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER 1 BB, 9 K, and he lost 3-2 to the Blue Jays on April 13 while posting this line: 9 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 6 K. Shields is the only pitcher to lose a complete game after allowing two or fewer hits since Wilson in the aforementioned July 2011 game (Wilson's line: 8 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 B, 8K), and he's done it twice since then: Once on April 13 and once on the penultimate day of the 2012 regular season, when he suffered the hardest-luck loss, by game score, since 1980.

On October 2 of last year, Shields retired the first 11 Orioles he faced, gave up  a two-out solo home run to Chris Davis, then retired 16 of the last 17 men he faced, the exception being a two-out infield single by Nate McLouth. However, the Rays never got a man past second base against four Baltimore pitchers led by starter Miguel Gonzalez and lost 1-0. Shields, meanwhile, struck out 15 men and racked up a game score of 94 via this losing final line:

9 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 15 K

The last time a pitcher lost a game with a higher game score was back when Billy Martin was busy ruining the arms off a generation of A's starters. On August 10, 1980 the A's Steve McCatty gave up one run in the first and one run in the 14th to lose a 2-1 game to the Mariners with a 96 game score and this final line: 14 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 8 K. As if that wasn't bad enough, the run in the first scored without the benefit of a hit, reaching second base via a pair of walks, then, if the play-by-play on Baseball-Reference is to be believed, scoring from second on an a groundout.

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