A pair of the best young starters in the American League will square off on Saturday when Chris Sale and the Chicago White Sox oppose Matt Moore and the Tampa Bay Rays.
In the opener of this three-game series on Friday, the Rays cruised to an 8-3 victory. Tampa Bay broke out to a 7-0 lead after just four innings behind home runs from Jose Molina and Kelly Johnson as well as a pair of RBI from Will Myers.
Jeremy Hellickson continued his recent improvement as he got the win by allowing just a single run while striking out nine batters in his seven innings of work. With the win, the Rays stay a half-game back of the Yankees for third place in the American League East.
Dylan Axelrod didn't make it out of the second inning as the starter for Chicago on Friday as he allowed five runs on nine hits in 1 2/3 innings. Josh Phegley collected a pair of RBI in the contest while Conor Gillaspie and Gordon Beckham each went 2-for-4.
The White Sox have lost seven of their last nine contests.
Though he is just 24, Sale is the unquestioned ace of the White Sox staff and he will be back in action on Saturday.
After exploding onto the scene a year ago, Sale is yet again turning heads in 2013 as he is sporting a 2.79 ERA to go along with 114 strikeouts. Both of those marks are among the top 10 for American League starters. Despite those impressive individual numbers, Sale is just 5-7.
His most recent start is a perfect example of why. Sale let up three runs while pitching eight innings and striking out 10 batters, but the White Sox bats went silent en route to a 4-0 loss.
It was the fifth loss in the last six starts for Sale, with the other outing ending in a no-decision. Sale's 10 strikeouts in the contest marked the third time in the last four outings he has had double-digit punchouts.
Sale has already made a start against the Rays this season. On April 25, the left-hander allowed two runs while striking out seven batters in as many innings to earn what was then his second win of the season. That start helped Sale's career numbers against Tampa Bay, a team he is now 2-1 with a 4.05 ERA against in five career appearances.
As one of five pitchers in the American League with double-digit wins entering Saturday, Moore has certainly been enjoying a strong season. Even more promising for the Rays is after some stumbles in early June, Moore looks to have locked back in.
Moore allowed totals of six, eight and five runs, respectively, in three- straight starts in early June as his one perfect record fell to 8-3. Since then, Moore has gotten back on track, winning his last three starts. Most recently, Moore beat up on the Astros as he pitched seven scoreless innings while striking out nine batters.
Overall, Moore is now 11-3 with an ERA of 3.65 in 93 2/3 innings of work. His 11 wins are a team-best by far while his ERA is second behind Alex Cobb (3.01) among Tampa Bay starters.
On April 27, Moore made his only other start of the season against the White Sox. Moore earned his fifth straight win to start the season in the outing as he allowed just a single run over six innings of work. It was more of the same for Moore, who is 2-1 with a 1.47 record in three career starts against the White Sox.
The Rays now hold a 3-2 edge on the season against the White Sox.