Tribe faces tall task in White Sox ace Sale
Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis are enjoying strong seasons as the Cleveland Indians' best players.
Neither has fared well against Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale.
There's little at stake in this week's three-game set in Chicago between AL Central rivals, though watching Sale operate against Brantley and Kipnis should provide entertainment in Monday's opener.
Cleveland (66-69) and Chicago (65-70) are essentially out of contention, though both are playing well. The Indians have won eight of 11 and the White Sox are seeking a fifth straight win.
Brantley leads baseball with a .376 average since the start of August. Kipnis is one of the majors' leaders with 17 games with at three hits and has a .311 average that is second on the team to Brantley's .319 mark.
They will have their hands full Monday. Brantley is 4 for 29 with 12 strikeouts against Sale (12-7, 3.29 ERA) while Kipnis is 4 for 17 in this matchup.
Sale leads the majors in strikeouts per nine innings at 12.11, with a career-high 239 to lead the AL. He has thrown 14 scoreless innings over his last two starts at home.
He can become the first pitcher in 13 years with 14 starts with at least 10 strikeouts since Arizona's Curt Schilling had that many in 2002 and teammate Randy Johnson had 15 such outings.
The left-hander is 3-0 with a 2.34 ERA in his last five starts with 53 strikeouts over 34 2-3 innings. Sale gave up four runs in 6 1-3 innings in Tuesday's 8-6 defeat at Minnesota, throwing at least 110 pitches for the fourth straight outing.
Chicago begins a 10-game homestand after totaling 25 runs and batting .351 while sweeping three from AL-leading Kansas City over the weekend. Alexei Ramirez is 10 for 17 in this win streak, going 8 for 14 with five RBIs in the Royals series.
Leadoff hitter Adam Eaton was 8 for 15 with two homers and five RBIs over the weekend although he is dealing with shoulder discomfort.
"Yeah, it's good to win in general, but Kansas City's a high-quality baseball team," Eaton said. "It's good to take three from a very, very good team."
Eaton is 2 for 11 against Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer (10-11, 4.56) while Ramirez is 4 for 13 with a homer.
Bauer fell to 0-3 with a 7.65 ERA in five road starts since the All-Star break after being tagged for five runs over 1 1-3 innings in Wednesday's 5-1 defeat at Toronto.
The right-hander is 2-1 with a 3.08 ERA in four 2015 outings versus Chicago. Slugger Jose Abreu is 7 for 16 in his career with a double and no homers against Bauer.
Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor is hitting .400 in his last 14 games, including a go-ahead, two-run triple in the sixth inning of Sunday's 4-0 victory at Detroit.
"I was just looking for that pitch to drive it, and eventually I got it and I thank the Lord I got it," Lindor said. "I was capable of helping the team win today and that's what it's all about."
Mike Olt went 2 for 4 on Sunday in his White Sox debut after being acquired off waivers the day before from the Chicago Cubs. His new team averages a major league-low 3.46 runs at home.