Chris Sale has looked forward to Saturday night’s start for a while and it’s not because the White Sox are giving away his bobblehead.
The White Sox ace couldn’t wait for another chance to face the Minnesota Twins, a team that knocked him around pretty good in 2015.
Based on last season’s results, Sale, who is 6-0 with a 1.66 ERA, faces perhaps his biggest challenge of the season to date. Sale won his first start against the Twins but ended up 1-4 with a 7.36 ERA last season.
“I’ve been waiting for this start,” Sale said. “I’m ready for it. They got me good last year. I’ve been waiting for them to come in.”
Sale entered last season 6-1 with a 2.70 ERA in 53 1/3 innings against Minnesota as a starting pitcher. He looked as if he may continue that trend when he struck out eight and allowed a run in six innings against the Twins in his first start on April 12.
But from there, Sale — who was 12-8 with a 2.66 ERA in 25 starts against everyone else in 2015 — looked pedestrian against Minnesota. He allowed 29 runs (26 earned) and 41 hits in 27 innings against them. Against everyone else, Sale allowed 139 hits and 58 runs (52 earned) with 36 walks in 175 2/3 innings.
One big factor who’s no longer in the Twins’ lineup is outfielder Torii Hunter. Hunter, who is retired, went 6-for-18 with two doubles, two homers and six RBIs last season against Sale.
“I enjoyed competing against him because you knew what you were getting,” Sale said. “It was his best versus my best. He’s as professional as it gets. I was kind of bummed to see he wasn’t back. Honestly, he kind of rakes me, but I enjoyed playing against him.”
The Twins still have several holdovers who have fared well against Sale.
Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe (.741 OPS) and Kurt Suzuki (.863 OPS) have all hit Sale over a large enough sample size.
But Dozier, a .289/.341/.632 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 41 plate appearances, has a sore hamstring and is out of the lineup. So is Eddie Rosario, who went 4-for-5 against Sale last season.
Even so, Sale doesn’t intend to let his guard down. He remembers all too well how much the Twins punished him last season.
“They’ve still got a good squad over there,” Sale said. “I know they didn’t get off to the start they wanted to. But that’s still a good team.
“I just know that every time I pitched against them it wasn’t very good. Obviously going into this year, having a little more emphasis on my starts against them and I’ve been waiting for this opportunity to face them because of how hard they played me last year.”