There were some questions as to whether or not Chris Sale would be able to match what he did a year ago. Well after one start the answer seems to be a resounding yes.
Sale tries to follow up a terrific outing in his first start on Sunday when the Chicago White Sox play the rubber match of a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners at U.S. Cellular Field.
The 24-year-old left-hander dominated the Kansas City Royals, scattering seven hits over 7 2/3 scoreless innings. He also struck out seven and walked a batter.
The only real trouble spot for Sale came in the third inning, when the Royals loaded the bases with one out. Sale proceeded to strike out Billy Butler on four pitches, and then retired Mike Moustakas on a popup to second baseman Gordon Beckham.
"That was fun, it was exciting. It was everything I thought it would be and more," Sale said. "I did a real good job of kind of collecting myself and not getting too amped up too early or too late and it ended up being a pretty good day."
Sale has faced the Mariners four times (2 starts) and is 2-0 against them with a 2.55 ERA.
The Mariners will counter with Japanese righty Hisashi Iwakuma, who also earned a win in first start. Iwakuma was terrific against the Oakland Athletics, limiting them to a run and two hits in six innings. He also struck out seven without walking a batter.
This will be Iwakuma's first start against the White Sox, but did pitch to a 1.80 ERA in two relief outings last season.
Seattle was denied a series win on Saturday, as Alex Rios hit a two-run homer to help Chicago to a 4-3 victory. Conor Gillaspie had two hits and scored two runs for the White Sox, who rebounded from Friday's 8-7, 10-inning loss to the Mariners in the opener of this three-game set.
Chicago starter Dylan Axelrod earned a no-decision after giving up an unearned run on three hits over 5 2/3 innings.
Felix Hernandez (1-1) gave up four runs on six hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings for Seattle, which has lost 12 of its last 14 games against the White Sox.
"The command was not there," Hernandez admitted.
A win in Sunday's finale, though, would give the Mariners their first series win at U.S. Cellular since 2007.