Two of the best pitchers in baseball went head-to-head for the second time this season and in the last week.
Chris Sale and Justin Verlander squared off at U.S. Cellular Field on Monday just five days after seeing each other on the mound at Comerica Park.
“You're talking about two of the best pitchers in the league over the last 10 years, you know what you're getting when they come to town,” Sale said. “Just try to be as good as you can and go from there.”
Sale pitched eight innings with eight strikeouts and allowed two earned runs on six hits. Verlander went seven innings with 11 strikeouts, tying his season high, and surrendered two earned runs on eight hits.
“They have the type of stuff if they do make a mistake they can get away with it,” White Sox catcher Alex Avila said, who caught Verlander in Detroit from 2009-2015. “And the reason they’re also good is they can command multiple pitches on both sides of the plate. That’s why they’re as good as they are.”
Verlander now has 209 strikeouts on the season, making it the sixth time the righthander has accomplished having 200 or more in a season. Sale is not far behind at 193, which are seven away from his fourth straight season with 200+ K’s.
“It’s a great matchup,” Ventura said. “Both guys were strong. Even a day that you know the conditions are very offensive. Even with the fly ball, the first fly ball of the day, you see anything really in the air going to left field, if it’s hit decent, it’s going to go.”
That’s exactly what happened with Avila, who took advantage of a four-seam fastball on the first pitch he saw in the seventh inning and homered in the second straight game against Verlander. In both games against his former teammate, Avila went 1-for-3 with one homer and two strikeouts.
“I wasn’t trying to hit a home run,” Avila said following his sixth home run of the season. “He just missed his location. He was trying to go away and it was more middle. With him he’s so tough because this year with as hard as he’s been throwing he’s been able to live at the top of the zone with the fastball. It’s kind of riding on you and it’s tough to gauge which one is a strike or not.
“A lot of times it depends on the umpire. Depending on the umpire you can have a tough day out there, plus with a three o’clock game you can’t see for six innings.
“With him you have to make sure he is down and when you get it down in the zone don’t miss it.”
And having caught Verlander for seven years in Detroit may have helped.
“I will say having faced him this year, going into the games, I didn’t have to do any type of homework before the games,” Avila said. “I already understood what he was going to be trying to do. He’s tough, and he’s throwing the ball really well.”