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Levine: Cy Young Contender Chris Sale Making His Case

By Bruce Levine--

(CBS) -- The White Sox may not be involved in any potential postseason play in 2014, but looking at postseason awards may be another story. First-year sensation Jose Abreu will surely bring home the American League Rookie of the Year award to Chicago. With Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka missing a half a season, Abreu may indeed be a unanimous choice for the award.

The Cy Young Award may be a more convoluted matter.

White Sox ace Chris Sale continues to make a case for the award as the American League's best pitcher. On Thursday afternoon, Sale dominated the Oakland A's with a masterful performance of eight scoreless innings that included a streak of 17 hitters retired in order on the way to his 12th victory of the season.

Still, Sale has rote numbers working against him, having missed seven starts due to an arm injury that placed him on the DL in late April. The left-handed pitcher was sidelined for five weeks.

Sale breezed through the struggling Oakland lineup Thursday, allowing two hits and two walks over eight innings. He lowered his ERA to an AL-low 1.99 and pushed his strikeout total up to 192. The 26-year-old Sale has the best strikeout ratio in the league at 10.5 Ks per nine innings pitched.

Yet the competition for the award is steep, with great seasons by Seattle's Felix Hernandez and Detroit's Max Scherzer produced for playoff-contending teams.

"I have thought about it," Sale said. "I have thought about winning a World Series and a Cy Young , all that stuff ever since I was a kid. I would be lying if I said I didn't. As quickly as it pops into my mind, it goes right back out. I don't play the game for that. I play for everyone in here and to win games. That is numero uno."

Hernandez appears to be the favorite to win the award. He has a 14-5 record with a 2.12 ERA and a league-leading 217 strikeouts. Scherzer, last year's winner, has 16 wins to lead the league. All of that said, Sale is pushing both hurlers for the league award with continued dominance.

Consider this: The White Sox are 66-80 on the season but 15- 9 when Sale pitches.

"Hey, awards are nice but I got rewarded today with a win," Sale said Thursday. "That is all I need. We played good baseball. That is the reward of what we work for --winning and having success."

The real winners are the White Sox, who through the direction of general manager Rick Hahn signed the young pitcher to a five-year, $32.5 million contract before the 2013 season. The contract, which began in 2014, has had some risk-reward features, due to minor arm injuries that Sale has incurred the last two seasons. All that aside, Chicago also has club options on Sale for 2018 ($12.5 million) and 2019 ($13.5 million) at bargain prices.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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