While the Chicago White Sox might normally like their chances of posting back-to-back wins for the first time in three weeks behind Chris Sale, it remains to be seen how the hard-throwing left-hander will bounce back from a rare off outing.
Additionally, the Milwaukee Brewers' Zack Greinke is no stranger to getting hit hard on the South Side.
Sale and Greinke square off as the White Sox and Brewers open a three-game set Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
After compiling a 0.98 ERA and striking out 43 in 36 2-3 innings over a five-start winning streak May 17-June 9, Sale (8-2, 2.46 ERA) allowed career worsts of five runs and four walks over 5 2-3 innings last Friday in a 7-6 loss at Dodger Stadium.
"You feel good with him on the mound and ... the way he's been throwing, but tonight he just didn't get it done," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "He walked too many guys ... That just can't happen. We were behind in the count on every guy."
Hoping to have better command of his pitches, Sale has a chance to lead Chicago (36-33) to consecutive victories for the first time since its season-best nine-game winning streak May 23-June 1.
Though the White Sox have since dropped 11 of 17, they've managed to stay in the thick of the AL Central race. Chicago salvaged Wednesday's series finale with the Cubs, winning 7-0 to remain one-half game behind first-place Cleveland.
"We needed that," Gordon Beckham said after going 2 for 4 with his ninth homer and a career best-tying four RBIs. "We've been doing a good job of not getting swept. ... We're playing hard, we're doing the right thing. It's just coming a little harder the last week and a half."
Beckham and his teammates could be in for another big day at the plate versus Greinke (7-2, 3.10). In 21 starts against the White Sox while with Kansas City, Greinke posted a 4.47 ERA and a 6-10 record - his highest loss total versus any club.
The 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner has especially struggled in Chicago, going 1-7 with a 7.15 ERA in eight starts.
Pierzynski has enjoyed facing the right-hander, going 19 for 46 (.413) with two homers. Paul Konerko, whose 59 at_bats are the most of any batter versus Greinke, is hitting just .153 with one homer and 17 strikeouts.
Greinke wasn't very sharp in his last outing, yielding four runs and a season-high 11 hits over eight innings of Sunday's 5-4, 15-inning loss at Minnesota. He is 3-2 with a 4.96 ERA in eight starts as the visiting pitcher.
The Brewers (32-37) are coming off their fourth win in six games, defeating Toronto 8-3 on Wednesday. Yovani Gallardo earned his sixth win while Carlos Gomez, Corey Hart, Martin Maldonado and Ryan Braun all homered.
"It's very important for us. It's obviously getting close to the All-Star break, and we (had to) turn things around quickly," Gallardo said. "We were able to do that this past six games, and we've just got to continue it."
Riding Braun's hot bat could help them do just that. The reigning NL MVP, batting .359 with six homers during a 15-game hitting streak, has recorded a .404 average while hitting safely in 25 consecutive interleague games. He is 3 for 13 lifetime against Chicago.
The White Sox have won eight of nine in this series since 2000, including two of three in the most recent meeting in 2009.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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