White Sox-Yankees Preview
It's easy to understand why Chris Sale feels like a kid again. Being one of the best pitchers in baseball on one of its best teams affords him that luxury.
The left-hander looks to win his eighth straight start to begin the season Friday night in the opener of a three-game series against the New York Yankees.
Sale (7-0, 1.79 ERA) has been remarkable in helping the White Sox (23-12) to the AL's best record, logging at least seven innings in six of his seven starts with 47 strikeouts and only 29 hits allowed over 50 1/3 innings.
He's surrendered only three homers, is one of nine starters with a sub-2.00 ERA and opposing hitters are batting .165 against him – the third-lowest average in MLB.
“We are just having fun,” Sale told MLB's official website. “I've said it before. We are playing baseball like we did when we were kids. Coming in, having fun, keeping it loose. And giving it everything we've got.”
Sale bounced back from a shaky first inning his last time out to post another quality start. He needed 36 pitches and gave up two runs in the first but wound up tossing seven innings and allowing three hits in a 7-2 win over Minnesota on Saturday.
It was the second time he finished with nine strikeouts, and it seems he's not looking to punch everyone out after a 2015 in which he had double-digit Ks 13 times and tied Pedro Martinez's record with eight consecutive starts of 10 or more.
“I had a good breaking ball (Saturday) and that was about it. My fastball was all over the place,” said Sale, who retired 19 of 20 after allowing five straight batters to reach in the first. “My changeup wasn't there for the most part … I didn't need to strike everyone out. (The defense) got my back behind me.”
His resilient effort made him the fifth White Sox pitcher since 1913 to win his first seven-plus starts. Sale joined Eddie Cicotte (12-0 in 1919), John Whitehead (8-0 in 1935), Jon Garland (8-0 in 2005) and Jack McDowell (7-0 in '93).
Sale has put in a quality start every time he's started against the Yankees, going 3-1 with a 1.31 ERA in six outings with 50 strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings.
He's had his way with a few of New York's lefty swingers, holding Dustin Ackley, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner to a combined 2 for 26 with 15 strikeouts. Ellsbury has whiffed five of the six times he's faced Sale.
The White Sox as a team haven't fared so well against New York in recent seasons, losing 13 of the last 17 meetings. Chicago, which has dropped two in a row after a four-game win streak, hasn't taken a series against the Yankees since August 2013.
Luis Severino (0-5, 6.12) will try to maintain that dominance and pick up his first win of 2016 after showing flashes of his potential in his last outing.
The right-hander has had trouble with the longball and gave up three homers in his last start – two to David Ortiz – but he struck out nine in 6 2/3 innings while allowing four runs in a 5-1 loss to Boston on Sunday.
It hasn't helped that New York has scored only four runs for him this season.
“If he's throwing the ball like tonight, I think he's going to win games if we score runs,” manager Joe Girardi told MLB's website.
“We really haven't given him much to work with.”
The Yankees (14-19) took three of four against Kansas City with Monday's 7-3 victory and have won six of nine since a six-game losing streak.