CHICAGO -- Fans of the Chicago White Sox can officially stop worrying about Chris Sale now.
Sale started with a flurry and finished with a storm to lead the White Sox to a 3-1 victory to avert a series sweep by the Cubs. The ace left-hander threw seven scoreless innings, tied a career high with 15 strikeouts and made sure the White Sox (55-60) kept possession of the Crosstown Cup, after splitting the season series three wins apiece.
"I felt loose," Sale said. "I felt good. I never put too much emphasis on pregame bullpens or the first inning, but you know, I knew if I could corral it and keep it together, I could possibly get deep into the game."
Sale, who allowed one hit, wasn't the only White Sox pitcher throwing strikes.
Right-handed reliever Nate Jones struck out the Cubs in order in the eighth to give the White Sox 18 strikeouts as a team. According to Baseball-Reference.com, that set a new franchise record for a nine-inning game.
The loss ended a nine-game winning streak for the Cubs (67-49), who were overmatched by Sale for the second time this season. He also beat them July 11 at Wrigley Field by striking out 10 in seven innings.
This time, Sale (11-7) struck out the side in the first, fourth and seventh, and registered at least one strikeout in every inning he threw.
"He was really good," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "The best thing we did is we got his pitch count up enough to get him out of there before the ninth inning, but his changeup was spectacular, his fastball was good, he had command of all his pitches and he's a tough guy for us right now. He's a tough guy for a lot of teams, but he's really tough for us."
The only time Sale got into trouble was the sixth, when the Cubs loaded the bases on a walk, a hit batter and their only hit, a one-out single by Dexter Fowler. He escaped by striking out rookie Kris Bryant, the Cubs' designated hitter, and right fielder Jorge Soler for the second and third outs.
Including the outing at Wrigley Field, Sale has struck out Bryant all six times he's faced the Cubs' young star, three times in each start. Sale also fanned catcher Miguel Montero three times Sunday, and easily struck out first baseman Anthony Rizzo twice prior to hitting him in the arm with a 99-mph fastball in the sixth.
"He was ready to go," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "He was fantastic today. I don't know, (there's) not too many times he's been better than that. He was darn near unhittable for the time he was in there."
Soler hit a solo homer off closer David Robertson in the ninth for the Cubs' only run. The White Sox got solo home runs from first baseman Jose Abreu in the third, shortstop Alexei Ramirez in the fourth and left fielder Melky Cabrera in the fifth to give Sale a 3-0 lead.
It was more than enough. Sale and Jones dominated, and closer David Robertson picked up his 24th save.
Dan Haren, a right-hander, took the loss after pitching just 4 2/3 innings and allowing all three homers. Haren was hit hard on the right foot on a ground ball in the second, but stayed in the game.
It didn't take long for Sale to assert his dominance on a hot, sunny day. He struck out the side in the first inning and then proceeded to overwhelm the Cubs the remainder of his outing.
His final inning was equally impressive, striking out the side once again. Sale, who leads the American League with 208 strikeouts, topped the 200-strikeout plateau for the third straight season. That tied him with White Sox legend Ed Walsh as the only pitchers in franchise history to record at least that many strikeouts in three straight seasons.
Sale also extended his own franchise records by recording his 17th career outing with 12-or-more strikeouts and 29th career start with double-digit whiffs -- 11th this season.
"He made us look silly, but that's what he does," Rizzo said. "It was a small victory to get him out of there (after) the seventh, to get his pitch count up by striking out a bunch."
NOTES: The White Sox designated veteran UTL Emilio Bonifacio for assignment Sunday and reinstated OF J.B. Shuck from the 15-day disabled list. Shuck had a left hamstring strain that landed him on the DL Aug. 1. Bonifacio, 30, hit .167 (13-for-78) with two doubles, four RBIs and five runs in 47 games (15 starts) this season. ... Cubs manager Joe Maddon used a different DH for the third straight game as a way to get some of his young stars a little rest without sitting them out. Sunday, rookie 3B Kris Bryant handled the DH role, after RF Jorge Soler did it Saturday and rookie C/LF Kyle Schwarber took at bats at that spot Friday. ... White Sox manager Robin Ventura put 1B Jose Abreu in the second slot in the batting order and moved rookie 3B Tyler Saladino down to ninth. Saladino had hit second since being recalled July 10 from Triple-A Charlotte.