While Chicago is known as the Windy City, the breeze on the South Side on Tuesday night figures to be coming from major league hitters.
Chris Sale and Chris Archer lead the AL in strikeouts per nine innings, and these nine-game winners figure to present major problems for the lineups of the Tampa Bay Rays and White Sox in the middle game of this series.
Chicago (50-54) and Tampa Bay (53-54) are fighting to stay in the tightly-packed AL wild-card race and their hitters figure to be fighting just to make contact in this contest. Sale (9-6, 3.20 ERA) averages 11.57 strikeouts per nine innings and Archer (9-8, 2.54) averages 10.99.
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"You're going to see two elite pitchers from the American League," Rays manager Kevin Cash told MLB's official website. "Two very special pitchers, both do it with big fastballs. Big breaking balls. So it should be a really good matchup."
Sale has an AL-best 177 strikeouts and Archer is third with 173. Of the 35 games in the AL in which a pitcher has struck out 10 or more, Sale has 10 of them and Archer six.
"When I'm out there pitching, I'm not thinking about strikeouts," Archer said. "And neither is Chris Sale. When you get to two strikes and the opportunity presents itself, you make a pitch and go for it if you can."
These starters turned in vastly different performances in their previous outings.
Sale was charged with seven runs over five-plus innings Thursday as Chicago's seven-game win streak ended with an 8-2 loss at Boston. His ERA was 2.41 over his five previous outings.
One day earlier, Archer retired the first 19 Detroit hitters in Tampa Bay's longest bid for a perfect game before he was charged with two runs while striking out 11 in seven innings of a 2-1 defeat.
Archer is 0-4 with a 3.96 ERA in his last six outings and 1-0 with a 3.26 ERA in three career starts versus the White Sox. Jose Abreu is 5 for 9 with a homer against him, while Melky Cabrera is 5 for 20.
Sale is 2-3 with a 3.45 ERA in five starts versus the Rays with 50 strikeouts in 31 1-3 innings. Evan Longoria is 1 for 11 with six strikeouts in the matchup.
Tampa Bay improved to a major league-best 19-11 when facing lefty starters with Monday's 5-4 victory. Mikie Mahtook's RBI single in the ninth inning was the difference.
Chicago has lost four of five after rallying to tie the game in the sixth inning on Abreu's two-run homer and erasing a one-run deficit to take the lead in the seventh.
"We didn't get it done tonight but we still fought back and had a chance," manager Robin Ventura said.
Abreu went 2 for 3 and extended his hitting streak to 14 games, a run in which he is batting .385 with five homers and 18 RBIs. Adam Eaton was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts to snap an 11-game hitting streak on which he batted .455.
The White Sox may debut outfielder Trayce Thompson, who was recalled Monday from Triple-A Charlotte and is the brother of Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson.