Rays-White Sox Preview
Runs could be at a premium Thursday night when Sale takes the mound opposite Hellickson in the opener of a four-game set at U.S. Cellular Field.
After dropping four straight and 10 of their previous 13, the White Sox (8-12) salvaged a rain-shortened two-game split against Cleveland with Wednesday's 3-2 win. Jose Quintana pitched effectively into the sixth inning and Alex Rios hit his team-leading sixth homer.
"I'm happy about the victory," Quintana said. "We needed to get that win. It's a start. We need to keep it going through the next games."
Chicago now turns to Sale (1-2, 4.50 ERA), who's dropped his last two starts - both on the road. The left-hander was tagged for a career-high eight runs over 4 1-3 innings against the Indians on April 13, then surrendered three over seven frames last Thursday in a 3-1 loss to Toronto.
"So far so good," Sale told the team's official website. "I'm just following the plans that I have here. In the weight room and in the training room. Maybe doing a few different things. ... But my last four starts I felt good. Leading up to this one, I feel like I'm right on track."
Sale has to like his chances of bouncing back at home, where he's gone 9-1 with a 1.94 over 13 starts dating to last season. His only loss over that stretch came in a 10-4 defeat to the Rays on Sept. 29, during which he allowed five runs over 3 1-3 innings.
Sale was superb in his only other start versus Tampa Bay (10-11), striking out a career-best 15 over 7 1-3 innings in a 2-1 road win May 28.
Hellickson (1-1, 3.55) turned in an outstanding performance of his own Saturday, scattering three hits and striking out six over seven innings in a 1-0 victory over Oakland.
"Honestly, I felt as good this game as I had in the other games. As long as I think I'm making them string some hits together and making them keep the ball in the yard, I think I can do that a lot," he told MLB's official website. "I think the biggest thing was throwing strikes and getting ahead of hitters."
Hellickson is 0-4 despite a 2.52 ERA over his last six road starts dating to August. He yielded three runs and a career worst-tying nine hits over 5 2-3 innings of a 3-1 loss at Chicago on Sept. 28 - his only appearance in the series.
Hellickson will try to build on Alex Cobb's masterful performance in Wednesday's 3-0 victory over the New York Yankees. Cobb came within two outs of his second career shutout, leading the Rays to their fifth win in six games.
Tampa Bay has allowed just nine runs over that stretch while limiting the opposition to a .170 average.
That doesn't bode well for the White Sox, who despite winning Wednesday have scored just 10 runs while hitting .166 over their last five contests.
"Usually, you're going to see two to three guys probably struggle at any time. But when it's a group and you're not getting it done consistently, it's tough on everybody," manager Robin Ventura said. "Eventually, it moves on and you just keep playing. I guess that's why we have so many games. You just have to be patient enough to wait for it."
White Sox fans could be running out of patience with Adam Dunn, who's mired in a 1-for-38 slump and is batting .100. He's struck out 13 times while going hitless in 21 at-bats over his last six games against the Rays.