Two of the best young pitchers in baseball will duel on Saturday as the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins meet for the third part of a four-game set at Target Field.
The American League Central bottom dwellers split the first two games of the series with Minnesota winning, 4-3, on Thursday and the White Sox avenging the setback with a 5-2 victory on Friday.
Chicago's win in the second game of the series ended its season-long 10-game road losing streak that began before the All-Star break. Jeff Keppinger and Adam Dunn each homered in the third inning and Jose Quintana pitched into the seventh to help the White Sox get the job done.
"I don't look at it like we're the same group that went out on the road last time," manager Robin Ventura said. "It just feels different."
Dunn drove in a run in the series opener as well and has now hit safely in his last nine games while batting .393 with six walks during that span. Rookie outfielder Avisail Garcia, who was acquired from Detroit in the trade that sent Jake Peavy to Boston, is settling into his every day role with Chicago since the club parted ways with Alex Rios to make room for him. Garcia is batting .276 and has registered a hit in all but one of his seven games since entering the starting lineup.
Chicago's offense will try to provide run support on Saturday for its All-Star southpaw Chris Sale, who is coming off his fourth complete game of the year. Sale is just 8-11 on the season despite ranking fifth in the AL with a 2.73 ERA. He didn't surrender an earned run in 7 1/3 innings of work against the Yankees on Aug. 6 before holding Detroit to just two runs on nine hits in complete game victory on Monday.
Minnesota will counter with its 27-year old rookie starter Andrew Albers. The 6-foot-1 lefty has been phenomenal in his brief two-game career, during which he has not given up a single run. Albers held Kansas City to four hits over 8 1/3 innings on Aug. 6 and limited the Indians to just two hits on Monday despite going the distance.
"It's pretty unbelievable," Albers said. "I didn't think it could get any better from the last start, and yet here we are again, and it did. It actually got a little bit better. It's incredible. It's another of those nights where things went my way."
Albers was not a high-profile prospect coming into the season. He had Tommy John surgery in 2009 and played in an independent league in Quebec in 2010 before signing a minor league contract with Minnesota the following year.
Joe Mauer has a good chance of providing offensive support for Albers. Mauer is 9-for-15 with two home runs, five RBI and four runs over his last three games. He is just 4-for-14 versus Sale in his career. Justin Morneau, who cleared waivers on Wednesday, went 1-for-5 with three strikeouts in Friday's loss.
Minnesota is 10-4 in games against the White Sox in 2013. The Twins are 16 games behind the first place Tigers in the AL Central race. Chicago is 23 1/2 games back of Detroit.