CHICAGO (AP) White Sox ace Chris Sale is on a historic roll, but that's not the scary news for opponents.
Sale and manager Robin Ventura believe they haven't seen the best of the lefty sidewinder just yet.
Sale went the distance on a masterful four-hitter Thursday night, becoming the first major leaguer since 2008 to win his first nine starts, and the Chicago White Sox edged the Houston Astros 2-1 to snap their season-high four game losing streak.
Sale joined the New York Giants' Sal Maglie (1952) as the only pitchers to win their first nine starts with sub-2.00 ERAs in major league history. His 1.58 ERA ranks second to teammate Jose Quintana (1.54) in the American League.
''I just see him continuing to get better as the season goes along, as he goes through his career,'' Ventura said. ''He's confident. He's doing a lot of different things that he hasn't done in the past as far as just adding a little bit (to his pitches), taking a little off in the heat of the moment.''
Sale walked none and struck out a season-high nine en route to his second straight complete game. No other pitcher has more than seven victories in the big leagues this season.
''Just keep doing more of the same,'' Sale said of the next step. ''You got to stay on it, what you've done, where you've been, just try to better yourself. Any athlete that respects the game will tell you that.''
The Arizona Diamondbacks' Brandon Webb had been the last to post a 9-0 record in his first nine starts. The last White Sox to accomplish the feat was Eddie Cicotte in 1919, when he won 12 in a row.
''9-0 is cool,'' Sale said. ''I enjoy it. I enjoy snapping the skid we were in even moreso than that.''
Houston broke the shutout bid in the eighth, when Evan Gattis clubbed Sale's first pitch for a home run.
Sale retired the first five batters, allowed a single to Gattis in the second inning then mowed down the next 12 before Jose Altuve singled in the sixth.
Sale finished his 107-pitch masterpiece with a flourish. He caught Tyler White looking for the 1,073rd strikeout of his career, which moved him into a tie with Ted Lyons for eighth in franchise history.
''Sale came as advertised,'' Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. ''Probably as good of stuff as we've seen all season. We just couldn't scratch anything across early.''
Jerry Sands' two-out single off Collin McHugh (4-4) staked Chicago to a 1-0 lead in the second. The hit scored Todd Frazier, who had opened with a single and stole second base.
Alex Avila hit a sacrifice fly for the second run in the seventh.
McHugh allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings to take the loss, his first after three straight wins. He walked one and struck out a season-high eight.
Chicago threatened to break on top in the first, but George Springer leaped high to snare Jose Abreu's drive before it cleared the fence.
CHANGE OF SOX
Ventura shuffled the lineup in an attempt to snap his team out of its funk. Carlos Sanchez replaced slump-ridden 2B Brett Lawrie, who did not start for the first time this season, while Jerry Sands filled in for DH Avisail Garcia. Sanchez batted second and SS Jimmy Rollins slid down to sixth in the order.
''Every team is going to go through a stretch like this,'' Ventura said. ''How they respond, obviously, you pay close attention to it as far as personalities, how they interact, how they come to the ballpark ... All that is stuff you look at.''
Astros: OF Carlos Gomez (bruised ribcage) could resume baseball activities early next week. Manager A.J. Hinch planned to discuss a workout schedule with the veteran when the team returned home.
White Sox: RHP Nate Jones was available out of the bullpen. He left the game on Tuesday after being struck on his left foot by a line drive.
Astros: RHP Lance McCullers (0-0, 9.64) is scheduled to open a three-game series against the Texas Rangers on Friday. The start will be his second of the season after a bout with shoulder soreness.
White Sox: Quintana (5-2, 1.54) will get the start versus the Kansas City Royals in the first game of a three-game set on Friday. The left-hander has a 1-6 record in 18 career starts against the division rivals.