CHICAGO -- Even for a red-hot Mariners squad, U.S. Cellular Field continued to be a house of horrors on Friday as the White Sox rolled to a 7-1 series-opening victory.
Fellow Cubans Dayan Viciedo and Jose Abreu roughed up country mate Roenis Elias and the Mariners mustered little opposition against White Sox standout Chris Sale as Seattle lost for just the third time in its past 13 games.
The Mariners fell to 47-39 and dropped 5 ½ games back of American League West-leading Oakland, but will try to regroup on Saturday behind their own ace, Felix Hernandez.
For some reason, the Mariners have struggled for years now against the White Sox, who are 28-7 against Seattle since 2010 and 22-4 over the past 26 games at U.S. Cellular.
But there was no mystery to Friday's flop, which seemed almost pre-ordained given the preponderance of left-handers in the Mariners lineup against Sale. This was a tough match from the get-go and Sale delivered a complete-game six hitter with 12 strikeouts.
Lefties were hitting .089 against Sale coming in and that didn't bode well for a Mariners club with six southpaws in its starting nine, even with right-hander Corey Hart rejoining the team earlier in the day off the disabled list.
"I wouldn't say I was by any means laughing at it or anything, but that's definitely the first time it's happened this year," Sale said of the lefty-heavy opposition. "So I just tried not to put too much emphasis on it. I knew I was probably going to throw a few more sliders today than normal, but that's about it."
The Mariners had just one other right-handed bat on the bench in backup catcher John Buck, but manager Lloyd McClendon had no place to play him with the right-handed Mike Zunino already behind the plate and Hart at DH. So he put Willie Bloomquist at shortstop and otherwise rolled out the majority of normal lefties and hoped for the best with a team that has surprisingly gone 20-11 against left-handed starters this year compared to 27-27 against righties despite its lefty lean.
Sale, already a two-time All-Star at age 25, improved to 8-1 with a 2.16 ERA as he breezed through eighth scoreless innings before getting nicked for a run in the ninth on a sacrifice fly by Hart.
"He's one of the best in the league," said McClendon. "Left-handed, right-handed, it really doesn't make a difference. Our lefties for the most part this year have handled lefties pretty good. This guy was special tonight and you tip your hat to him."
Only two left-handers -- Gregor Blanco and Josh Hamilton -- had hits off Sale this season prior to Friday's game. Kyle Seager, Logan Morrison, Michael Saunders and Robinson Cano all joined that list, but none did damage until Cano's double in the ninth set up Hart's sacrifice fly.
"That's kind of the way they're built," said White Sox skipper Robin Ventura. "It's not ideal. But for lefties going up there, those were the toughest lefty at-bats he has had this year. They were staying up there, putting 'em in play. They're tough. Chris had his work cut out for him and he threw a great game."
The right-handed Bloomquist went 2-for-4 and scored Seattle's lone run when he singled, went to third on Cano's 20th double of the season and then moved home on Hart's fly out to right. The veteran utility man said Sale was even more difficult with the early evening start time for the Fourth of July game.
"There were some tough six o'clock shadows, so the first five innings there wasn't a lot you could see, let alone try to do anything with," Bloomquist said. "He's nasty and he doesn't need help. But that was a tough draw. He's as advertised, he's got electric stuff. Doesn't matter if you're left-handed, right-handed or switch, he's got a lot of stuff to get you out with."
Elias matched zeros for the first three frames before running into trouble as the Mariners rookie saw his record evened at 7-7 and his ERA bumped up to 4.19 with his second straight rough outing.
Abreu's two-run homer highlighted a four-run fifth for the White Sox. Viciedo knocked a solo shot in the fourth inning and went 4-for-4 for the day.
The 25-year-old Elias had given up five runs in six innings in a 5-0 loss to the Indians in his prior start and the White Sox matched that in five frames as they racked up seven hits, one walk and a hit batter, with Viciedo and Abreu accounting for four of the hits.
"It was just a bad day, like any other. I'll just stay positive and keep working hard," Elias said, using bullpen coach Mike Rojas as an interpreter. "My pitches were there. They just hit 'em. That's baseball."
Elias said he'd played against Abreu in Cuba, but not against Viciedo. Abreu continued his own outstanding rookie season as the first baseman extended his hitting streak to 18 games and raised his totals to 27 home runs and 69 RBIs.
Seager went 1-for-4 on the day and is hitting .488 (20-for-41) over his last 10 games. Cano also went 1-for-4 with his ninth-inning double and said it was just a tough night for a club that had scored 28 runs in its first three games of the road trip in Houston.
"Everybody knows he's filthy," Cano said of the 6-foot-6 Sale. "That's a guy you have to take advantage of when he leaves it over the plate. He was great tonight."
Sale is now 3-0 with a 2.41 ERA in six games (four starts) against Seattle, with 40 strikeouts and seven walks in 33 2/3 innings.